Have you ever wondered how you could really be obedient to the instruction of Yeshua the Messiah in Matthew 5:48? In case your wondering, Yeshua says here, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This seems like a task that is impossible, especially if you truly realize the awesome holiness of the Creator. When the prophet Isaiah was in the presence of Yahweh he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips... (Isaiah 6:5)" Isaiah recognized that compared to Yahweh he was ruined, he was a creature in need of divine help from his Creator.
So how can we be perfect as our Father in heaven? Well, if you believe Yeshua's statement means that we are supposed to be exactly like our Father in heaven (completely holy, sinless, immortal, all knowing, etc.) then it truly is an impossible task for a human such as you and I. However, when we understand Yeshua's statement in the context He said it, the meaning of the instruction becomes quite clear. It is always important to read Bible verses in context, else we will make the mistake of interpreting them to have a meaning which was foreign to the original author and the original audience.
Yeshua, previous to Matthew 5:48, spoke of the need for us to not only love our neighbor but to also love our enemy. He said to pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44). This is not what we see going on in many Christian communities today. People who profess Christ are constantly trying to "get back at" others and gossip about those who are enemies of them. Even something as simple as someone else blowing the horn at us often causes us to "fly off the handle" and we want to do the exact same thing to them or even worse. In cases like this we are to instead act kindly to those who wrong us. Yeshua here echoes His Father Yahweh. Notice these Scriptures from the book of Exodus.
Exodus 23:4-5 "If you come across your enemy's stray ox or donkey, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it."
Here, Yahweh teaches us to do good to our enemies. It's not as though Yahweh is only speaking about this specific situation that may arise in the Israelite community. It's not like an Israelite could see his enemies "cow" and think, "Oh! But it's not his donkey so I don't have to help him!" Yahweh is teaching Israel a principle. The principle is that they are to be kind and seek to help those who would not desire to help them; those who may be downright hateful towards them. This law applies still applies to us today.
In this vein Yeshua tells us (Matthew 5:45) that in loving our enemy we are being like our Father in heaven for even Yahweh makes His sun to rise on those that not only do good, but also upon those that do evil. Yahweh's rain pours out on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is explaining that Yahweh shows common grace to all people in the world, giving them sunlight for their health, warmth, etc. as well as rain; both are necessities of life. If we want to be children of our Father in heaven, then we need to do our best to imitate what He does here.
This is what Yeshua means when He says to be perfect even as Yahweh is perfect. The word perfect often carries the meaning of "complete." Being perfect or complete here means not just loving the ones who love us, but loving the ones who do not love us. If we love only those who love us we are imperfect or incomplete. If we love those who we consider to be our enemy we are exhibiting a complete love.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.