Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. — Matthew 5:48
Most of us feel our shoulders slump a little when we read that. Be perfect? Come on. There are kind and wise people who reassure us that it really means “Be perfect in the end.” When we get to heaven. Maybe they’re right, but I don’t think that covers all the bases. I’m a stickler for verb tenses and precise language, and I note that it doesn’t say “Become perfect.” It says, “Be perfect.” So I’d like to cover some more bases.
The most common use of perfect is to mean unflawed, unblemished, unmarred, unmarked, unspoiled, un you get it. But perfect also means absolute, complete, total. This makes it more interesting. I think the shoulder slumping comes from viewing it as the first definition, but if we’re really being commanded to be absolute, complete, or total, that’s no sweat. We can’t do that either, but we don’t have to. That’s what the Savior is for. And He can do that for us right now.
No matter how “perfect” we are or think we are, we are miles and miles and miles away from being enough. No matter how hard we try, or how long we work, or how close we get, we will always be miles and miles and miles away from being enough. That’s why it’s called grace. We can’t earn it, do it, or keep it. It is a moment to moment gift that the Savior freely gives and that we can only receive if our hearts are soft and our thoughts are turned toward Him. Does that really sound so hard? (Yes, but more on that later.)
Just because we can’t earn grace doesn’t mean we get to be turtles on our backs floating lazily down the infinite Atonement river. The Atonement is pure grace, but we can’t receive it in our uncleanness, i.e., our natural, everyday state that we never shake in this life. The only spiritual cleanness available to us is also a moment to moment gift freely given when we repent. Repenting can be anything from acknowledging a wrong and asking for forgiveness to wearing a hair shirt and beating your breast morning, noon, and night. It’s really personal preference.
The point is to soften our hearts, to break them of their pridefulness and selfishness. It’s the broken parts of our hearts that Christ fills in and fills up. We have to break them to invite Him in. Once our hearts are broken and our thoughts are turned toward Him, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to perfection. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Now if only that hard part didn’t get in the way.
Many moons ago, my mother was fussing at my father and saying, “Nothing is perfect!” My father, a man of few words and even fewer occasions to use them said, “What about a flower?” And you could have heard a pin drop.