Doesn’t God expect us to be perfect?

In the previous devotional I explained how pursuing “the way of the righteous” as articulated in Psalm 1 is about a direction, not perfection.

Some of you will have wondered, but what about Matthew 5:48? “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Ah yes, that statement by Jesus has really been a source of consternation and confusion for a lot of people.

Let me share some context that I think is helpful. When Jesus says to be perfect, he is teaching about loving your enemies. His reasoning goes like this. God sends sun and rain on bad people just as he sends sun and rain on good people (Matthew 5:45-46).

If God is charitable in this way, we should strive to do the same. Our love should aim to be perfect—or comprehensive—just like our heavenly Father’s. So the passage is not about never making mistakes. It’s about loving in a way which aims to be perfect—or comprehensive—toward the people around us.

This is a part of what it means choose “the way of the righteous.”

If we only love people who are the same as us, we’re not doing anything special. Jesus asks: “Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is Yes!

Our calling is to be different. It is to be holy and to stand firm in God’s word. It also includes a sincere and soul-deep commitment to loving others—the ones we like and the ones we don’t, the ones who are like us and the ones who aren’t, the ones who agree with us and the ones who disagree, the ones we consider friends and the ones we consider enemies, the ones who love us and the ones who hate us.

Our heavenly Father is perfect in showing love. Sounds like a worthy life goal for us as well.


–“The Two Ways.” Sermon based on Psalm 1. Click here.

–“An introduction to the psalms.” Click here to watch a video introduction I put together on the psalms. [Teachers and preachers, feel free to use for free—no credit necessary.]

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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