Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
One of the things we often say, usually when we try to justify our sinfulness, is: "Oh, what can I do? I'm only human." Have you ever done that? What do we mean when we say we *only* human? That we are pathetic, miserable, useless creatures who cannot help but sin, right? But is that what we are? If God created us in his own image and likeness, then pathetic, miserable, and useless must describe him! Do you see where I am going with this? Okay, I know this will be a *major* paradigm shift for many, so please follow my arguments carefully.
God is pure, holy, and perfect. Do you agree? Good. God created us in his own image and likeness. I just said that. Do you agree? You have to; it's in Scripture. See Genesis 1:25-26. So, if God is pure, holy, and perfect, and we are created in his image and likeness, then we are created to be pure, holy, and perfect. Do you agree? Again, you have to because these are the rules of logic. If a > b, and b > c, then a > c. The rules of logic are good for spiritual truths as much as for scientific ones.
However, to ensure that there is Scriptural backing for this, consider what the Bible says about all three. John tells us to purify ourselves as God is pure. That's 1 John 3:3. Peter tells us to be holy as God is holy. That's 1 Peter 1:15-16. And, as we saw in today's passage, Jesus himself tells us to be perfect as God is perfect. That's Matthew 5:48. Pure. Holy. Perfect. That's what it means to be *human*.
Ok, so now that this is established, let us look at the question that automatically follows: if holy, pure, and perfect is what it is to be human, why are we not?
Three reasons. One, we have believed in the wrong premise, that being human means being weak. If our starting premise is wrong, everything that follows will be wrong. Two, we like to take the path of least resistance. Consider climbing up and down a hill. Which do you prefer? Ditto for life. We generally like to take the easy way. And three, we rely on our own strength and wisdom. When we do this, we are doomed to fail.
So how do we get it right? One, let's get the premise right: being human is to be pure, holy, and perfect. Two, let's not be afraid of what seems difficult. Three, let us rely on the grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to get things done.
I will leave you with a few more words from Peter. He said (I paraphrase): "God's divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3). I know it seems like a long, arduous journey, but you know what they say about long journeys. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Let us take a couple of steps today.
May the Spirit be with you.