What if you could become the perfect Christian? The kind that when God looks down from heaven, He can say, “I find no fault in that one.” Would you do whatever it takes? Travel to any country? Witness to any person? Give up chocolate and TV for the rest of your life?
Well, what if I told you that you can keep your chocolate and still be a perfect Christian? What if I told you that being a perfect Christian, while perhaps challenging at times, was completely doable? That pleasing God is totally within the realm of possibility, and it won’t require you to move to India and live in a monastery? Well, here it is, straight from the mouth of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
There are a few other traits of perfection Jesus describes in Matthew 5. Like turning the other cheek. And not swearing oaths. And not committing adultery through lusting glances. And not holding grudges. And not using a petty excuse like ‘irreconcilable differences’ for getting divorced and marrying somebody else. (Hey, don’t get mad. I’m just telling you what Jesus said.)
So, love for enemies + peace + forgiveness + fidelity = perfection in God’s sight. Easy? Not by a long shot. But doable. Much better, in my opinion anyway, than the umpteen ‘holiness rules’ I was taught growing up. I even heard a preacher say it is a sin to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. Where is that in the Bible??
(Just so you know, I’m ‘sinning’ twice a day before even climbing out of bed.)
While you’re relishing in your new-found freedom to punch the snooze button, would you also like to acquire perfect, God-pleasing religion? Then check this out:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).
Remember that rich young ruler who wanted to become Christ’s disciple? You know, the one who had kept the 10 commandments from birth? Jesus told him this:
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
Many Christians do many things in their pursuit of perfection in the eyes of God. They go to church every time the doors are open. They rise early every morning to pray and read the Bible. They force themselves to smile even in the most painful situations and go around exclaiming “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” all day. They abstain from alcohol, secular parties and music, rated-R films, and revealing attire. They never swear, always tithe, and witness to everyone who will listen. Such behavior is admirable–at times, even necessary. But according to the Bible, none of that stuff makes a Christian perfect. Or holy. Or even worthy of heaven. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If it did, Jesus would have praised the Pharisees for their ‘holiness.’
(Keep in mind, the Pharisees kept the Sabbath, made long prayers, tithed, and fasted regularly. But because they withheld justice and mercy from others, their efforts at pleasing God were worthless.)
So, what about the Bible’s command to live separately from the world? Well, I guarantee you that if you’re praying for your enemies, turning the other cheek, being faithful to your spouse, trusting God for your needs and exuding compassion for others, your life and behavior will be radically different from that of the average person. Worldly people advocate “an eye for an eye.” The believer says, “You can have both of my eyes and a kiss.”
Pray for your enemies. Give to the poor. Comfort the distressed. Forgive the brother who has wronged you. Don’t become polluted by the world’s pride, idolatry, and sexual immorality. This is the way to godly perfection per God’s holy Word. Now, how about some chocolate?