We all have a sense of perfect. We know what we like and what we don’t. Perhaps we can describe our perfect day. Our perfect spouse. How perfect children would behave? The problem is that perfect demands 100% accuracy. Deviate by .00000000000001 and the perfect is only near perfect. But our understanding of perfect is not the Bible’s understanding. Which is both a relief and a challenge.
Jesus closes his explanation about love by saying, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NASB95) If “perfect” means 100% accuracy without any deviation, then we’re off the hook. It is literally impossible for us to be perfect like God is perfect. He’s God! All-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God! We know that Jesus would not give us an impossible task so what is he really saying?
The context of Jesus statement is His explanation of love. Real agape, unconditional God-like love. So, we can narrow the scope of Jesus demand to “be perfect” to “be perfect in agape, unconditional God-like love.” Even that is a far stretch because it means loving everyone. You possibly read about Kerry’s journey towards unconditional love a few days ago. You don’t fall into agape love, you choose it. But we are still left with a problem, can we ever love perfectly (as we understand the word)?
The word translated into “perfect” has the idea of being complete and wholeness. Nothing left out. This is different than our typical understanding of perfection. It is still a challenge but changes the picture from one of instantly loving perfectly like God with zero deviation to one of loving with everything we are at this moment. Impossible to possible. And although the verse doesn’t give us a picture of movement and growth, experience and other scriptures grant us that grace.
There are four stages of love’s growth in us. Blindness, we don’t see the need yet. These folks are outside our scope. They may be invisible to us or unwanted by us, but we, as yet, do not see the requirement to love them. Illumination, we see and understand that there are others we need to love. The blindness is gone, but actions have not yet happened. We understand but haven’t loved. Exploration, we seek for the right ways to express love. This requires interaction and choice. Remember! We’re talking about God’s kind of love and not romantic love. During this phase, we explore what it means to “lay down our lives” for them. Completion, agape love is fully integrated on our side in this area of our relationship.
But here’s the thing. We will be in all four stages at the same time as we grow into agape love. There will be some folks we simply don’t see. Areas in someone’s life that we don’t yet love and are also blind to. The same with illumination, exploration, and completion. For me, the problem area is between illumination and exploration. There are many instances where I’m no longer blind about the need to love but don’t understand how to move or I am too fearful to take that next step. But here’s the good news, we’re not alone in this journey. We’re not left to stumble about in the darkness to figure this out.
We don’t go from blindness to illumination without the Holy Spirit. Neither do we go from illumination to exploration or exploration to completion without Him either. I think another command of Jesus plays a huge role here. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8, NASB95) Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. God loves perfectly and enjoys showing us how to love. Lord, shine your light on our blind spots and show us how to fully love all those we see and give us the boldness to follow through.
Jesus says be perfect in love.