What Does it Mean to be Perfect?

What does it mean to be perfect? What does it mean to be holy? And what does it mean to be pure? These are important questions because God expects me to pursue these distinct qualities in my life now. He expects me to pursue perfection (Matt. 5:48). He expects me to pursue holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16 ). And He expects me to pursue purity (1 Jn. 3:3).

My natural response to these biblical expectations reveals a wrong but common way of thinking. It reveals an unwillingness on my part to embrace the full force of each command. It reveals an impulsive desire to tone down these commands and make them more palatable.

For instance, when I hear the command of Jesus to be perfect (Matt. 5:48), my mind quickly reminds me that perfect means mature. And this interpretation is more comfortable, because the word mature sounds much less intimidating and far more realistic and manageable. Perfect sounds distinctly idealistic and unreasonable. It sounds like hyperbole.

But as I meditate on the actual command, the way that Jesus Christ gave it, I discover that He did not intend to give an easy command. Not at all. In fact, He anticipated the mental gymnastics that would happen in my mind.

I am responsible to be as perfect, as holy, and as pure as God Himself.

Christ qualifies His command to be perfect. He describes the perfection that He requires in an unmistakable way. He not only says, “Be perfect,” but He says, “Be perfect like God the Father is perfect.” Do you find that incredible? Do you find that hard to believe? Notice a similar explanation in the command to be holy – just as God is holy – and the command to be pure – just as pure as He is pure. I am not responsible to be perfect in a way that is less perfect than God. Nor am I responsible to be holy and pure, only less holy and pure than God. No, not at all. I am responsible to be as perfect, as holy, and as pure as God Himself.

Perhaps you are asking the same question as me. “But I can’t be perfect, can I? After all, isn’t perfection something that happens in heaven and not on earth?” And the answer to that is yes. You will not be perfect until eternity. But don’t let this fact prevent or distract you from pursuing these qualities now. Pursue them. Pursue them wholeheartedly. There is no imperfection or flaw in your character or behavior, outward or within, that cannot be transformed by Jesus Christ now. Don’t succumb to any spiritual aspirations less than the perfection of God. When you settle for anything less, you will certainly fall far short of the goal. When you aim for the ideal, and truly pursue that with all of your heart, two things will happen.

First, you will find – at the end of your life on this earth – that you will have experienced a much greater measure of Christian growth. You will be much closer to the perfection, holiness, and purity of Christ in your personal character as a result of pursuing the ideal personally and passionately.

Second, you will realize your need to rely directly upon the perfection, holiness, and purity of Jesus Christ far more than if you embrace an expectation less than His actual perfection, holiness, and purity.

Yes, I will never be perfect until heaven. But I am learning to embrace perfection as my goal in this life anyway. By embracing this goal, I believe I am being obedient to the expectation of Jesus Christ. And I am finding a greater desire to rely upon Him in a far greater way for the spiritual growth and personal change that He intends to accomplish in my life.

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