48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Taking this verse out of context can lead to a whole lot of sadness, sense of failure, and lack of grace. It appears to be a winning verse for the perfectionists among us. The better translation of the word here translated "perfect" would be "complete" or "whole" or "mature." (teleiois). The same word is used in James 1:4 "that you may be mature (teleioi) , and complete not lacking anything.? Colossians 1:28 says that you might present every man perfect (teleion) in Christ. There are a few translations who get this (Weymouth). Teleios is the same root from which we get the word "teleological" meaning argument from the end. It has the end or goal or final part in mind.
So what this verse is saying is that if we want to be mature, we need to listen to how Jesus interprets these commandments of the Old Testament. These are but samples of how to interpret them. There are three parts to each interpretation: 1) The actual commandment- which is to be taken seriously- he does not deny them; 2) The heart of the commandment- how the commandment is applied to our heart (Murder= anger in the heart; Adultery is lust in the heart, etc); 3) The positive side of the command- instead of hate- love your enemies; instead of lust- love. Really the command to love is the mature and teleological end of each command.
The classic teleological argument used to point to God's existence goes something like this- because there is order and design and purpose in the world, there has to be a designer, someone who gives order, an arranger. Perhaps another way we may say is that love exists- despite our selfishness and sin- therefore there has to be a God of love. Now I am talking about sacrificial agape unconditional love- not just lust (which seems more natural). Love (like turning the other cheek or forgiving another) can conquer sin. God did not just make us- He loves us. God is love. We love because He first loved us. Love comes from God. Love is what we move toward for maturity. It is our end, our goal, our perfection.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to grow in my maturity- and grow in my love for you and my neighbor.