I woke early this morning and read an article sent from a colleague about the downfall of one of the Christian world’s leading apologists. He wasn’t the person everyone thought he was. He died last year and with that came the public inquiry not into his death but his life. I read the article with disturbed sadness.
I then read our next verse in Matthew’s gospel and what ends for us chapter 5:
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5 v 48)
So that’s easy isn’t it?
I try. Don’t you? I also fail. What about you?
If the Apostle Paul openly talked of his struggle with sin then this Paul certainly is going to struggle!
So how am I going to achieve perfection?
Antony of Egypt (251-356) abandoned his inheritance at the age of 20 after hearing a reading of: If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give to the poor.
For 20 years he shut himself off from society in a Roman fort on a solitary desert mountain. After which he became a symbol of strength and wisdom for Egypt.
As a result many became followers of Antony, they were known as the desert fathers. An arm of the desert fathers was the Stylites, an extreme bunch of people who thought perfection was attained by living on top of pillars. Thousands of weak, weather-beaten hermits lived a short life of malnutrition in the pursuit of being like Christ and being perfect.
So in my desire to be perfect do I become a follower of Antony?
Or do I realise that I am just a broken man in need of the Japanese practice of Kintusgi pottery? I need God to mend me, a broken pot, with gold or silver so that I am more beautiful than I was before I broke. Is this now perfection?
Which is it? Let’s read the sentence again.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This sentence is a conclusion of all Jesus has just said:
Love is to bless those who hurt you; Love is saying sorry; Love is reconciliation; Love is not lust; Love is not being selfish nor being self-righteous; Love is honest; Love says I will not respond the way I am being mistreated; Love your enemy; Love without partiality; Therefore, Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The whole section is to love as God loves. Jesus gives a description of the kingdom whose citizens mirror God’s activity towards them.
The Message says of the verse: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
I may never achieve perfection but in my response to people I can reveal a perfect God.