Does anyone else struggle with Jesus’ command from the Sermon on the Mount,
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 ESV
In the midst of explaining how to live in the kingdom of God, being salt and light to the world, heart-attitudes of the Ten Commandments, and showing love to the difficult people in your life, Jesus makes this command: be perfect.
I checked other translations and all use the same word: perfect. It would benefit us to understand what Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and the Hebrews author are really saying as they carefully chose this word.
Telos, that’s the Greek word or a form of it the writers chose to instruct us in kingdom living, however, can we possibly live a perfect life? If Jesus commanded, not just suggested it, then we can assume it’s possible. But how?
Telos is easier to understand if we think of an old pirate’s handheld telescope. The kind that gradually extends, one stage at a time, until it’s full strength is reached. The view from far away is brought closer, one stage at a time, until it’s clear. The final phase is completed because the aim or goal is now clear.
Our Heavenly Father has a goal line for us, kingdom living, and He sees it perfectly with a divine telescope, therefore, Jesus commands us to see life through His lens, not ours. Often when our life is going in the wrong direction, we’re confused, our prayers aren’t answered and we forget that God has the goal in view and it’s our job to continue walking in His direction.
… but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:5-6 ESV
If our aim is to be like Jesus, that’s effective evangelism by the way, then it’s necessary to keep kingdom principles in mind: timing, higher purpose, alignment. We want our prayers answered yesterday but God has timing, telos, a complete picture and the fulfillment in view. That kind of relationship with God, sharing the same perspective, points others to Jesus without preaching a single sermon.
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:23 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV
The Spirit was sent to help us understand the ways and will of the Father as if we’re gradually seeing our life from His viewpoint, through His lens, until we see the complete picture: be perfect, as you lift your scope.