Christ tells us to obey Him. We are to do what He tells us to do. He is our Lord, Master and Savior, after all. And then He gives us a seemingly impossible command: “Be perfect.”
And then the knee jerk response comes. “Perfect? That can’t be right. Nobody is perfect.” But why would Christ give us this command if it were impossible to obey it? Of course, that is the point. With man it is impossible, but “with God all things are possible.”
Still, Christ’s indelible words just won’t go away. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5: 48). This is not a perfection according to shallow man’s wisdom, but we are to be perfect like our Father. To make sense of this paradox, we must dig down deeper into Christ’s words.
“Be ye therefore perfect” is the command. The word “therefore” means “for that reason,” or “as a result of all that was just said.” So what was He teaching in the previous forty-seven verses of Matthew 5? Christ was teaching agape love, the love from above. He was showing how human beings think and do when God, the Spirit of Love, dwells fully within them. “God is agape love,” says the apostle John (I John 4: 8). Love solidifies the fulfillment of the seventh apostles’ doctrine—perfection.
It starts with us being born of that Spirit of love. Christ is teaching us how we will be when He is fully manifested within us. He tells us, “Love your enemies” (v. 44). Very few of us have what it takes to love everyone, especially those who hate us. So Christ is speaking of a higher love, a love that far surpasses our original self-love that we are born with.
Christ is introducing a radical new teaching, far superior to man’s feeble and petty thoughts for self. Instead of loving your friends and hating your enemies, He commands us to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” He is telling us that when we obey these commandments, we will be showing that we are the children of our Father, for we will be like Him.
Well, what is the Father like? Our Father “makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). The Father opens the clouds of heaven with literal showers upon the farms of the hateful farmer and the loving farmer.
Our Father provides for both the evil and the good. That is the perfection of our Father. That is the Spirit of His perfection, the perfection that we are commanded to be like.
I know. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We would not do it this way. It is difficult to grasp this with the natural mind, and we are tempted to just skip these chapters. The apostle Peter before the resurrection is an example of how natural man takes care of business. He got out a sword and commenced to hack off the guard’s ear. Peter loved his friends but hated his enemies. Not good. Not God’s way. Peter would have killed all the evil ones and let God sort it out. But Peter did not have the Spirit of agape love at that time. Later he got a hold of God’s thoughts and ways, and the rest is history, which now has become our future.
What are God’s thoughts toward evil people and things? Why does He put up with the evil? Why would He desire us to love our enemies? It does not make much sense when viewed with the wisdom of the world. But with God’s wisdom…
Understanding How to “Love Your Enemies”
It is perplexing. How do we love and forgive our enemies and thereby “be perfect,” the offspring of the Father? The key is understanding that God created both the light and the darkness. That includes the literal light of day and the dark of night, as well as spiritual good and evil. God created our enemies and our friends. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isa. 45: 7). “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” There were no unexpected accidents in the script.
For all of us, good or bad, play a part in the drama that He has written, directed, and produced. Like a play, the script has been written by the great Author of our faith. He knows all about the protagonists and the antagonists; He created them. He has instilled in us, His sons and daughters, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge as to what this life is all about. His law of harvest states that we will reap what we sow. Those who seek will find out the answers to the mysteries of His interactions with man.
It is when we see life as God sees it that we will comprehend the need for evil to help us display the power of His love in dispelling darkness. For love, agape love, overcomes every dark and evil force on earth. God created it that way. And when that divine love surges through us, then God is glorified. When we through the power of His in-dwelling Spirit of agape love–when we love our enemies, then Love triumphs over hate, and God is glorified. Then God will have reproduced Himself in and through us.
The Father receives glory, not through us saying, “Glory to God!” He is glorified when we with His love inside overcome the darkness by loving the unlovable, by loving our enemies. We must understand that evil serves as a foil for the love within us in this drama. It is when we overcome evil with goodness, and hate with love, that we gain a critical knowledge of just who our Creator Yahweh is. We must never lose sight of His eternal purpose; it is written into the DNA of every living thing. He wants to reproduce Himself. When we love our enemies, God is multiplied. And the only place that He has ordained for that to happen is inside of us.
Moreover, if there is no evil for His children to overcome and surpass through His agape love, then God cannot be glorified. For good overcomes evil as light dispels darkness. In fact, agape love is matured within us by confronting evil.
I know that God is raising up a people who will understand all of the above. They are the Father’s chosen ones, His elect, His sons and daughters. They will reject the doubters who say, “It is impossible to be perfect.” For they will know that perfection means the completion of the spiritual growth within them. Perfection means that the Word has taken root in their hearts and has grown to full maturity and is bearing 100 fold fruit as Christ and His apostles did. For Christ did say, “Greater works shall you do than what I have done.” His word has taken root in their hearts; now that is a radical idea. It is fundamental and a sure foundation.
And armed with this knowledge, they will see that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). It will dawn on these princes and princesses of God that “no idle word” proceeds out of the mouth of God. They’ll take this admonition to heart: “Let us go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1-2). And they’ll learn that there is so much more to God’s spiritual house than the first two apostles’ doctrines–“repentance from dead works and faith toward God,” which are the first steps of “newborn babes in Christ.”
They’ll realize that they have received in their hearts the seed of perfection. Christ is that Seed. And now that Seed is growing, for “one plants and another waters, and God gives the increase.” This growth is likened to a planted seed of wheat or corn. It comes up, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” And then harvest will come when He will have been perfectly reproduced in us. And we then in full maturity will have completed the life cycle of God. And that is perfection.
God’s elect will realize this in the command: “Be perfect.” For they will see these two words as His challenge to “overcome all things” and walk on down His road to the Heavenly City. They will answer the challenge and embark on this quest for perfection. Because He said, “Be perfect.” Kenneth Wayne Hancock