“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This is the last verse of Matthew 5, the first of the three chapters where the Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded. What was he talking about?
Well, the Lord Jesus starts the sermon by talking about those who are blessed in God’s sight, known as the Beattitudes. Then he tells us that we are salt and light in this world and are responsible to reflect the One we serve. Next, he talks about the law of the Old Testament, how he is going to fulfill it, and how we must surpass the righteousness of those who keep every letter of the law in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Next, the Lord tells us that not only are we not to murder, but we are not even to be angry with someone or we will be judged the same. And then we are told that not only should we not commit adultery, but we must not even lust or we have already committed adultery in our heart. We are told to cut off the parts of ourselves that cause us to sin. Then the Lord says that divorce is only permissible in the case of unfaithfulness. And then the Lord tells us not to swear by anything but let our yes be yes and no be no. Next we are told to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Finally, the Lord tells us to love our enemies, because even the worst of people love those who love them and there is no reward in that. After all this, the Lord tell us to be perfect.
From verse 21, speaking about murder, to the end of the chapter we find a series of statements saying, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago… But I tell you…” The Lord Jesus Christ raised the bar in every single instance he talked about here. He raised the standard from merely keeping the letter of the law (v. 20) and commands us to keep also the principles behind the letter. And he ends this part of his discourse by telling us to be perfect.
That’s quite the standard to be kept. But if we profess Christ as our Savior we cannot ignore it. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” Do you believe the words of the Lord? Do you believe the Bible is the very Word of God? It’s time to start living like it. Gandhi, not a Christian but a follower of Hinduism, once made a statement in effect saying that Christians will never make an impact, even a dent, in this world if we do not make the Sermon on the Mount part of our creed. He was right. Until we live out these words of the Lord we can never expect to impact this world for Christ and win souls to salvation. But more than that, if we do not obey the words of Christ we cannot even say we are truly following him in the first place (John 8:31).