Day 9 – Perfect as the Father

“For this reason you will be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5: 48.

Perfect before God, perfect with God, perfect towards God: these are the expressions we find in the Old Testament. They all indicate a relationship: the choice or purpose of the heart set upon God, the wholehearted desire to trust and obey Him. The first word of the New Testament at once lifts us to a very different level, and opens to us what Christ has brought for us. Not only perfect towards God, but perfect as God; this is the wonderful prospect it holds out to us. It reveals the infinite fulness of meaning the word perfect has in God’s mind. It gives us at once the only standard we are to aim at and to judge by. It casts down all hopes of perfection as a human attainment; but awakens hope in Him who, as God, has the power, as Father has the will, to make us like Himself.

A young child may be the perfect image of his father. There may be a great difference in age, in stature, in power, and yet the resemblance may be so striking that every one notices it. And so a child of God, though infinitely less, may yet bear the image of the Father so markedly, may have such a striking likeness to his Father, that in his creaturely life he will be perfect ,as the Father is in His Divine life. This is possible. It is what Jesus here commands. It is what each one should aim at. “Perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” must become one of the first articles of our creed, one of the guiding lights of our Christian life.

Wherein this perfection of the Father consists is evident from the context: “Love your enemies, that you may be sons of your Father which is in heaven; for He makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good: Be therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Or as it is in Luke 6: 36: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The perfection of God is His love; His will to communicate His own blessedness to all around Him. His compassion and mercy are the glory of His being. He created us in His image and after His likeness, to find our glory in a life of love and mercy and beneficence. It is in love we are to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect.

The thought that comes up at once, and that ever returns again, is this: But is it possible? And if so, how? Certainly not as a fruit of man’s efforts. But the words themselves contain the answer: “perfect as your Father is perfect.” It is because the little child has received his life from his father, and because the father watches over his training and development, that there can be such a striking and ever-increasing resemblance between him in his feebleness and his father in his strength. It is because the sons of God are partakers of the Divine nature, have God’s life, and spirit, and love within them, that the command is reasonable, and its obedience in ever-increasing measure possible: Be perfect, as your Father is. The perfection is our Father’s: we have its seed in us; He delights to give the increase. The words that first appear to cast us down in utter helplessness now become our hope and strength. Be perfect, as your Father is perfect. Claim your child’s heritage; give up yourself to be wholly a son of God; yield yourself to the Father to do in you all He is able.

And then, remember too, who it is gives this message from the Father. It is the Son, who Himself was, by the Father, perfected through suffering; who learned obedience and was made perfect; and who has perfected us forever. The message, “Be perfect,” comes to us from Him, our elder Brother, as a promise of infinite hope. What Jesus asks of us, the Father gives. What Jesus speaks, He does. To “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” is the one aim of Christ and His gospel. Let us accept the command from Him; in yielding ourselves to obey it, let us yield ourselves to Him: let our expectation be from Him in whom we have been perfected. Through faith in Him we receive the Holy Ghost, by whom the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Through faith in Him, that love becomes in us a fountain of love springing up without ceasing. In union with Him, the love of God is perfected in us, and we are perfected in love. Let us not fear to accept and obey the command, “Be perfect, as your Father is perfect.”