Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NAS)
Some of us may have heard such a remark being said about us or someone else. Whether we like it or not, as Christians we are constantly under the scrutiny of the people around us. We may readily admit we are just human, imperfect in our ways. Yet Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
As a fallen people saved by grace, how are we to conduct ourselves and live up to such a tall calling? The answer is in the next verse. Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Although the focus of this verse is about not displaying acts of righteousness to show off to men, it is implied that perfection is not something we can achieve by our own effort or through practice. For by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
To be perfect is therefore about the onward goal to walk in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in bearing His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22-23). All these traits are not likely to come upon us the moment we receive Jesus. As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to become more Christ-like, such will gradually and naturally grow in us.
Living by example to reveal Christ to the world through our lives is not about pretense but about faith in God. Like Jesus, we may be misunderstood at times when we are seen in the company of people who are considered not morally acceptable in conduct (Matthew 9:10-13). Or perhaps, we may be doing something wrong or behaving in a way that does not correspond to our faith as a Christian. Whether we are doing right or wrong, we need to always remember we are followers of Christ and should not become stumbling blocks to others or to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9).
Let us in all things show ourselves as examples of good deeds with purity in doctrine, dignity, soundness of speech that is beyond reproach so our opponents having nothing bad to say about us may be put to shame (Titus 2:7-8). Since we belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, let us who live by the Spirit also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). For we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Forgive us dear Lord for the many times our conduct have misconstrued Your ways and love for Your people. Empower us Lord by Your Spirit to bear good fruit that Your name may be glorified. Help us be good examples that we may reveal You to the world through our daily lives without pretense or causing others to stumble. Thank You Lord for leaving us an example to follow in Your steps.