We end the week with the kicker: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Is Jesus is kidding or indulging in hyperbole? Or is he is gently nudging his followers both into aspiration and reality? He’s asked them (and us) to yield to people trying to control us, open ourselves to people trying to hurt us, give to people trying to take from us, and love people who hate us. And, in case we want to feel better about how we measure up by comparing ourselves to others, he says that’s too easy – even tax collectors and “gentiles” know how to love their own kind. No, he says, if you want to compare yourself to anyone, compare yourself to your Father in heaven – don’t stop till you’re perfect.
Our yardstick might be too short, but isn’t his a little … impossible? How on earth can we be perfect as God is perfect? Well, a raw egg doesn’t get soft-boiled in a moment, right? It takes minutes to achieve perfect consistency. We become perfect as God is perfect, one moment, one decision, one day at a time.
The throughline I discerned in these teachings of Jesus, all of which concern how we interact with other people, especially ones who cause us trouble, is to always look out for the humanity, the individuality of others. Seeds of Peace is an organization that began by bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together for summer camps. When campers came face to face with the “Other” and found they were children like themselves, barriers began to break down. As U2 sings in Invisible, “There is no them, there is no them, there’s only us… there’s only you, there’s only me.”
We can cultivate the spirit Jesus asks of his followers one person at a time. Jesus wouldn’t have asked it of us, were he not planning to equip us.
I have heard grace explained this way: Because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, and because we are united with Christ, when the Father looks at us it is Christ's righteousness he sees, projected onto us. In Christ, then, we are already perfect. We spend this life living into what that means, bringing that spiritual reality into the reality of the here and now.
In prayer today ask God to show you who it is God sees when s/he looks at you. Let’s try to catch a glimpse of the perfection that is already ours, even as we slowly realize it.
We can cultivate the spirit Jesus asks of his followers one person at a time. Jesus wouldn’t have asked it of us, were he not planning to equip us. Elsewhere Jesus remarks, “With humans it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” Even being perfect.
Especially being perfect. In the fullness of time and relationship, so our promise goes, all is being perfected. Even us. Imagine that.