My two sons are perfect. Yes, that is a very proud, completely subjective father talking, but it is true. They are perfect. They are as different as night and day. Josh is thoughtful, detailed, confident. He sets his mind to a task, works out the possibilities, carefully measures his alternatives, and then puts his head down and accomplishes the thing. I have watched with amazement at the goals he has set for himself in his 36 years and the way he has met and even exceeded those goals. He is a man of few words and great action.
Jacob is 31. He is a talker. And he is a doer. He has one goal, live an exciting, fulfilling, adventurous life. Well, maybe two goals. Scare his wife and his parents to death in the process. Jacob is all big picture and “fly by the seat of your pants.” (A fitting metaphor since he is a flight instructor, spending hours in a variety of airplanes every day.) Where Josh methodically plans out his steps, Jacob dives in head first. Yet both come out on top on the other end. And both are…perfect.
How can that be? How can two men be so drastically different and both be perfect at the same time? Well, it has something to do with your definition of perfect. They are not flawless. Josh can drive Jennifer crazy in the time it takes him to finally decide. Jacob can drive Allison crazy in the speed with which he moves from one decision to the next. They are not free from mistakes. They both have messed up from time to time. And they are not finished in terms of maturity, experience, or development. They are far from perfect. (After all, they still have their mother’s genes in them as well.)
No, their perfection is in the eyes of their father. I see them as perfect. I dreamed, when they were born, of having sons that would love God, be great husbands and fathers, have a heart for others, and a passion to make a difference in the world. I see that in them. I see them giving themselves, both in different ways, to make an impact for good and for God on their parts of the world. Josh was the chaplain of his class in medical school as he worked to become a physician assistant. Jacob was a tremendous witness for Jesus while playing in a honky-tonk band in Nashville. Different paths but both following the purpose for which they were designed. Perfect. I see them as becoming all I dreamed they would be, perfect.
Okay, enough about my sons. Don’t even get me started on my daughters-in-law, or my grandsons. Perfection, it seems, at least from my perspective, is as much in the eyes of the beholder as it is in the performance of the person. Perfection is not so much what I do as what I am, “in Christ.” It is not about how I act as much as it is where I am headed. It is about how God sees me, and declares me to be. The Greek word, often translated as “perfect” in the New Testament, is TELIOS. It can also be “purpose, or end goal.”
So what does Jesus say about being perfect? In Matthew 5:48 He says, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” So, there you go. Go out and be like God today. See you tomorrow.
Wait, wait. How do I do that? How in the world am I supposed to live in such a way that my Heavenly Father says, “Hey, in my eyes, my boy (or girl) is perfect?” I mean, have you seen me lately. Just follow me around for a day. You will say, “That guy is anything but perfect.”
Perfect is a trajectory, not a target. It is more of a path than a present state. Perfect is living out, as best I can, the plan and purpose for which I was created, being the son or daughter that God dreamed I would be before I was even born. When Jesus says, “Be perfect” I think He means start doing the stuff that God designed you to do. Start answering the call and heading toward the end goal that God has prepared for you and prepared you for. It’s what Paul had in mind when he said, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Being perfect is not a one and done thing. It is a journey, putting my head down and getting on with the job (Josh) and diving in head first, fully engaged in the adventure (Jacob). Being perfect is being and becoming all that God designed us to be. And here’s the cool thing, God is the one that both designed us and keeps us moving in the right direction. That is why He, the Father, sees us as perfect. Jude 24 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep us from falling away, and will bring you with great joy into His presence, without a single fault (perfect).”
Jesus says, “Be perfect.” I don’t think He is assigning us a task that is impossible to do, setting the bar so high that I spend my life frustrated at my inability to clear it. No, I think He means God dreamed a specific dream for you. Just live that dream. Touch the people you are supposed to touch. Love the people He brings into your path. (This perfect conversation in Matthew 5 comes on the heels of a “love you enemies” talk.) I believe Jesus is saying find and do the life that God made you for. And when you do, the Father will see you as perfect. In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, a world class runner and a missionary to China, is explaining to his sister, the tension between running in the Olympics and going to the mission field. He says, “God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Hey, God is looking down at you today, running around, loving people, even the unlovable, the way He made you to, and He says to the angels, “See my kid down there…perfect.”