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Perfect in mercy

You will be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect  (Matt 5:48)

Now the first mistake people make with this verse is to forget that it's an indicative.  Jesus could have used the imperative here (You must be perfect), but He chose to use the future indicative - You will be perfect.

The other mistake is a broader one about God's 'perfection'.  Typically people think about divine perfection as that which excludes.  You know the sort of thing - "God is perfect, you are not.  You've got a snowflakes chance in hell with a perfect God, etc, etc."

And don't we just hate the idea of a 'perfect' person?  Because what we have in mind is someone who can't stand faults.  Perfection, to our way of thinking, is actually pretty unattractive.  And instinctively we feel like perfection is the enemy of that which is broken, faulty, sinful.  It just seems like perfection excludes.

But the context  in Matthew and the parallel in Luke show a very different picture of perfection.

The Father's perfection, as Jesus explains it, is (Matthew 5:44) a love for enemies, (v45) sun and rain for the ungodly, (v46) love for the unlovely, (v47) welcome for the stranger.

And the parallel in Luke says:

Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful  (Luke 6:36)

Divine perfection is not exclusive - it's inclusive.  It is the Father's perfection to have mercy on rotten sinners.  The perfection of God is not what keeps you out of His presence, the perfection of God is His heart's desire to constantly draw you in.

And when we get that through our thick skulls, then we'll start being like our merciful God.


0 thoughts on “Perfect in mercy

  1. theoldadam

    The versions (of the Bible) that I used all read 'must be', not 'will be'.

    I think it is an imperative, dsigned to place the full force of the law upon the sinner, to accuse and condemn (to kill off), so that the sinner would have no where to go, but to Jesus for his righteousness.

  2. Glen

    Hey OldAdam,

    Gramattically speaking it's definitely an indicative. Same as the 10 commandments. There is a perfectly common Hebrew imperative - but the 10 commandments are in the indicative - Thou *Shalt* (not Thou Must).

    But this is not to lighten its commanding load. You WILL is much heavier than you MUST. "You must" puts you in the driving seat - maybe you will, maybe you won't. "You will" makes you a slave of grace or else it obliterates you.

    I completely agree about being driven to Jesus by the law. But I think the indicative does that really well - because I certainly am not the righteous one described in this law. But I know a Man who is...

  3. theoldadam

    "I completely agree about being driven to Jesus by the law. But I think the indicative does that really well – because I certainly am not the righteous one described in this law. But I know a Man who is…"

    Nice one, Glen!

    Thanks, my friend!

  4. Dev

    if we go back to Jesus' quotation from the OT:

    Leviticus 19:2-3 2 "Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

    - you shall become holy because I am Holy (perfect/complete/"other loving")

    yet to read Jesus saying "You shall" to me is invitational - therefore the future indicative - meaning a promise that applies to me now and consummated then

    so it is a line of powerful encouragement from a Father to His children - I want you to be perfect.... you WILL be perfect... because I am perfect

  5. Heather

    So, would the "will be perfect" statement also be reflected in passages such as:

    And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will remove the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh,
    so that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20


    Just curious, as I've been trying to make sense of Ezekiel lately.

  6. Glen

    good one Dev and Heather. Does this make for a good *reformed* Lutheran reading? It's Lutheran in that you recognize yourself as completely incapable of fulfilling the demands of the law, it drives you to Christ who fulfils it in His own flesh. But it's reformed in that the work of the Spirit is acknowledged who takes that work for me and begins fulfilling it in me.

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