One More Summary Message of the Law: Be Perfect
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a startling summary of the law of God: “be perfect.” Our Lord had just been teaching about God’s law. His instruction provided a much deeper understanding of the law than the teachers of Jesus’ day had grasped. He showed how the law goes far beyond external behavior alone.
The format Jesus used was “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you.” In Matthew 5:27-28, He addressed the commandment on adultery in this fashion. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.‘ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” When lustful imaginations are entertained in our thoughts, adultery has already occurred, as far as God is concerned.
In verses 21-22 Jesus used this same pattern of instruction to reveal God’s perspective on murder: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” When vengeful anger floods our thoughts, this is harboring a murderous spirit within the heart. Actual murder and vindictive anger both deserve the same judgment. Clearly, God’s commandments can be transgressed by the unseen attitudes of the heart, as well as by the visible actions of the body.
Again, Jesus summarized such teaching on the law by saying: “be perfect.” In the law, God requires a perfection that measures up to the perfect character of Himself. The law is saying that we are to hold within our hearts and manifest through our actions a character that matches God’s. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.“
Dear Heavenly Father, these words are so humbling and convicting. You are so perfect in every way. I am so imperfect in every area. Lord, even actions that I think are acceptable in Your sight can be polluted by unacceptable attitudes that fall far short of the standard of Your perfections. Thus, I cast myself upon Your mercy and grace, looking to You for the only remedies that will ever suffice, even Your forgiveness and Your transforming power, through Christ my Lord and Savior, Amen.