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Read:  Matthew 5:43-48

                   “48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew ch. 5 is remarkable, there’s so much there. Jesus teaches the “beatitudes”, which are proclamations of God’s blessing in improbable circumstances.  We think the rich are “blessed”, Jesus says, “blessed are the poor”.  He turns many common assumptions upside down in that chapter.  Jesus quotes the Old Testament law several times saying, “You have heard that it was said…”  and then says, “But I tell you, …”  He expands, clarifies, corrects, and challenges the understanding of God’s word in the Old Testament.  He can do that as God’s embodied Word (John 1).

There is one line that is a potential stumbling block for Christians. I’ve had people tell me about it numerous times; it’s Mt. 5:43.  Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  I am humble enough and aware enough with my own need for grace and mercy to choke on that verse.  Be perfect!  Seriously?

Right now, all across America, people are struggling, especially during the holidays, trying to have the “perfect Christmas”, or to epitomize the “perfect family”.  That is the “perfection trap”!  Perfectionism is a big problem in our culture.  Many struggle under the expectations.  Suicide rates among teens from wealthy, high achieving homes is high.  The expectations and disappointment can be crushing.  Idealism and perfection can vex your spirit, and trouble your soul.  Don’t let it happen to you!

Remember the Biblical concept of “shalom”, translated in the Bible as “peace”? “Shalom” actually means more than “peace”, it means “health, harmony, wholeness”.  Shalom is our goal, not perfection, as we define “perfection”.  The word Jesus uses is “teleiov”; it means, “whole or complete”.  Wholeness doesn’t have to be flawless, to be complete.  You don’t have to have the “perfect” Christmas tree.  Charlie Brown, arguably, found greater wholeness in his small, irregularly shaped tree, than many who achieve the Martha Stewart ideal.  Whole means something different than “perfect”, and it is liberating.  When Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He is talking about wholeness.  That strange, miss shaped ornament on the tree made by your child or grandchild doesn’t detract at all, right? It honors life, memories, family and love.  Seek wholeness, not perfection.

Shalom, Pastor Rob Nystrom