Seeking perfection in an imperfect world

Published 8:22 am Friday, February 18, 2011

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Ken Jensen, retired Lutheran pastor

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” — Matthew 5:48

For those of us who like to say, “Jesus said it. I believe it. And, that’s it!” these words are particularly troublesome. There is no way anyone can achieve the standard set before us. So, why would Jesus challenge us with the impossible?

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First of all, everything Jesus said is not to be taken literally. If so, there would be many one-eyed, one-hand-amputated Christians running around. In addition, we are to interpret God’s Word within its context.

Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ …But I say unto you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” served as a law of retaliation to ensure justice was carried out. Punishment was not arbitrary nor could it be more severe than the wrong doing (intentional or not).

In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching about the perfection of God centers around three themes: loving, praying for, and forgiving one’s “enemy.” Rather than going after the one who has offended us with an attitude of “tit” for “tat,” Jesus said there is an other way …a better way. That way is to emulate the personality of God in our actions toward each other. In that sense of the word, we can be “perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Caring for one another as human beings, having empathy for one another, engaging in conversation those with whom we disagree and befriending, in their time of need, those whose deeds and lifestyles may offend us sums up the language of what it means to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.