"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5. 48
The most frequently given reason against identifying as a Christian is that the person concerned does not feel good enough. The most often heard criticism against the church is that it is full of hypocrites. Both attitudes can be related to an unrealistic expectation: that Christians are perfect - or that they think they are, when everyone can see that they're not!
So what did Jesus mean when he exhorted those who would follow him to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"?
Context is key. This command occurs in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically Jesus is teaching about love. Our tendency to confine affection to those we know is contrasted with the love of God, which knows no boundaries. Perfection, in this regard, is not measured in personal achievement but in largeness of heart. To be perfect, according to the teaching of Jesus, is about going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, loving God with everything we've got and our enemies as well as our neighbour.
In my quiet time this morning I was reading about how Christian perfection is sometimes conceived as ascending ever higher up a mountain with ever expanding views. But the reality is more like hacking our way through the jungle, never realising whether we are making progress or going around in circles. The essential thing being the refusal to give up!
Whether you find yourself on the mountain or in the jungle today, may your focus remain of being faithful to Jesus and attentive to others, especially those beyond your ordinary circle. And so may you taste something of the perfect life of our loving God and heavenly Father.