But you must always act like your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:48
When reading Matthew 5 in almost any English version of the Bible, this verse reads something like: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word that is typically translated as perfect is the Greek word teleios which carries some of the following definitions:
- (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age,
- mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process
- complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); completeness — of full age
But I like how the Christian Standard Bible quoted above states it: “you must always act like your Father in heaven.” While not a literal translation of the original text, I think it conveys the force of the intended meaning. Believers must always act like their Father in heaven.
The context of this saying is, of course, in the depths of the Sermon on the Mount, and Yeshua had just related that believers must love and forgive their enemies in the same way that the Father loves those who would be adversarial to him. This is the way we demonstrate we are his children: when we actually act like him.
Children carry the genetic and behavioral aspects of their parents into their worlds as they live and grow. If we are to be considered the children of God, then we should carry his genetic aspects (through being “born from above”) and his behavioral aspects (from learning his culture from his people through his Word) into our world. Since God is a god who loves, so should we. Since God is a god who forgives, so should we. Since God is a god who is fully complete and unchanging, we should be also.
This is the admonition of Yeshua here: that we should be complete, fully mature, demonstrating this spiritual maturity with those around us. We have all the tools we need, his Spirit and Word, to accomplish this.
The apostle Paul chastises the Corinthian believers for their lack of maturity.
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?1 Corinthians 3:1-3
The writer of Hebrews also laments the immaturity of his audience.
There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.Hebrews 5:11-14
“Solid food is for the mature,” the teleion, those who through constant use and training (like a gymnast) have their sense and judgment honed to know and do what’s right.
It’s past time for us to stop playing at spiritual things and to mature into truly living them out. We need to be responsible children of God who honor his name by doing the things he does, forgiving and loving as does.
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