We brining to a conclusion our sermon series ‘The Perfectionist’. Preaching from Chris Hughes.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Just like we can sometimes struggle to swallow a tablet, so the disciples would have found what Jesus said here “hard to swallow!” “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” No problem with divine perfection; but human perfection? Now that did stick in the craw!
Needless to say, this mandate to “be perfect” has generated a variety of differing responses -:
- Holiness preachers have developed the clearly unbiblical doctrine of “sinless perfectionism” claiming that a state of sinlessness is possible before death (Matthew 6 v 12 & 1 John 1 v 8.)
- Others have reacted with despair and defeat by simply giving up on the unequal struggle between the flesh and the spirit (Romans 3 v 23.)
- While others have opted for the middle ground by striving and pressing on towards perfection (Philippians 3 v 12) while acknowledging that the process will only be completed on the shores of eternity.
The word used by Jesus for perfection is “TELEIOS,” which is not used to mean moral perfection, but rather to imply that when men and women reach the goal for which they have been created, then they can be designated as “perfect.” That goal is to be the image of the heavenly Father (Genesis 1 v 27) in terms of displaying his character and attitudes.
The context of the passage suggests that if we are able to fulfil two very demanding requirements, then we will indeed “be perfect”: –
Love your enemies.
Elsewhere Jesus defined our enemies as – “those who hate you … who curse you … who ill treat you” (Luke 6 v 27 – 28) and illustrated our need to love them in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10 v 30 – 37.)
If we are ever to love our enemies then we must remember how we were once enemies of God, and yet he still loved us (Romans 5 v 10); and we must also make a conscious decision to love them, because we will never feel like loving them.
Practical response – Make a list of your enemies, and with the help of the supernatural love provided by Jesus, decide now to love them.
Pray for your persecutors.
Jesus did this while being impaled on the cross (Luke 23 v 34); and Stephen, the first Christian martyr, followed his example as the rocks rained down on him (Acts 7 v 59 – 60.)
Our persecutors today will not always be physical abusers, modern persecution is a great deal more varied and subtle; but once again we must make a conscious decision to pray for our persecutors, perhaps even beginning through gritted teeth, as gradually our love for them begins to slowly evolve and grow.
Practical response – Make a list of your persecutors, and with the help of the supernatural love provided by Jesus, decide now to pray for them.
Fulfilling these two obligations is a really important act of Christian witness, because when we demonstrate such extremely difficult and counter intuitive traits we are: –
- Reflecting the loving image of God, whose love is indiscriminate, and is poured out on good and evil, saint and sinner alike (v 45.)
- Giving evidence to the fact that we are – “sons of your Father in heaven” (v 45) who go beyond doing the natural things that even tax collectors and pagans are capable of, to doing supernatural things that reflect the perfect image of God, enabling us to in turn “be perfect.”
- Which of the three responses offered best sums up your attitude towards this mandate to “be perfect” and why?
- What does the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10 v 30 – 37) teach us about loving our enemies?
- Why is love so important when it comes to praying for our persecutors?
Title: Picture Perfect
Reading: Matthew 5 v 48
Preacher: Chris Hughes