September 2022 | Jesus, the Door

Be Perfect as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

Be Perfect as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

Pr. P. T. Thomas

Father-child relationship between God and man is unique to Christianity. All other religions envisage the relationship between God and man at the levels of deity and devotee or creator and creation or benefactor and beneficiary and so on. But the true God of the Bible calls man to the cordial loving relationship a child enjoys with its father. Love is the sum and substance of this filial relationship. As every father would desire even our heavenly father desires us to be like him in nature.

Created in God’s Image

In the context of creating man the triune God confessed among themselves “Let us make man in our image and  in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) Even in creation, man received God’s own image and likeness. As God is a spirit this image and likeness primarily refer to man’s inner qualities. In creation man inherited the divine qualities of righteousness, holiness, knowledge and glory (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10, Romans 3:23). But man disobeyed and rebelled against God and he lost this entire divine heritage. Now God has opened the perfect way for His redeemed saints to be like their heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). So getting restored to the perfect nature of our heavenly Father is implied in our redemption.

‘Be Perfect’

Jesus’ call to His disciples to be perfect points to a deliberate effort on the part of the disciples. In salvation, redemption of whole person is implied–redemption of our spirit, soul and body. It points to the three phases of our salvation–justification, sanctification and glorification. The first phase–justification–is deliverance from the punishment of sin. As Jesus took up ‘the punishment that brought us peace’, those in Christ will not be punished for their sin (Isai. 53:5). One receives this justification freely by faith through the grace of God.

Now the second phase of salvation, i.e., sanctification is a life-long process. It starts with one’s justification and continues all through his life, till his death or the second coming of Jesus Christ to receive the church to Himself. In this second phase of salvation we have to “make every effort to add to our faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge and to knowledge self-control and to self-control perseverance and to perseverance godliness and to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). It is in this process of adding up our spiritual qualities that we become perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. In this we have an active role.

Love Your Enemies

In the spiritual process of a disciple getting conformed to the heavenly Father, Jesus has given some practical instructions. ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’. This is what our heavenly Father does. He  causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This is something far above our human abilities. Disregarding the evil done against us and refusing to retaliate is the highest form of virtue we can think of. Taking such a passive stand is not the standard God has set for us. We have to positively repay enmity with love and pray for those who persecute us. It is what Jesus did on the cross. Even taking a breath is torturously painful to a crucified person. Uttering a word is unimaginably horrible. Yet Jesus offered a sweet prayer for those who were crucifying Him. ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). And ideal Son of a perfect Father! Only those who have this attitude can truly call God “Father”.

What Love Is?

The call to love our enemies sounds strange and impossible to us because, we fail to grasp the true meaning of love. Love is not liking. Even when someone has an evil nature and vicious life-style which no sensible person can like, we can love the person. We do not approve of his ways, but we can love him. Because love does not regard the wrongs committed against us (1 Cor. 13:5). Love is not provoked or angered. So even when one confronts us with hatred, we greet him with compassion. True love is not a reflection from a lamp, it is a torch that shines into darkness. It is not an echo, but a voice that comforts the agitated. Love does not expect anything in return. It is selfless and sacrificing. When we understand this true nature of love we do not look for any qualification in those we love. The fact that someone has enmity towards us does not prevent us from reaching out to him in love. Our heavenly Father does not withhold His sun and rain from the evil-doers and the blasphemous. When we love our enemies we become worthy children of our perfect Father in heaven.

Who is our Enemy?

No one with flesh and blood is our enemy. All human beings are children of the same heavenly father. Did not one God create us? (Malachi 2:10) Our only enemy is the evil one. Those who treat us with enmity are misguided and cheated by the true enemy. They are not active on their own. They are beguiled and misled. So we should feel pity for those who ill-treat us or even persecute us. When we suffer persecution for being the children of God we become worthy of eternal rewards in heaven. So those who perpetrate evil against us, truly do us a favor. When we are persecuted for our godliness, let us rejoice in the hope of eternal glory to come as its reward. When we evaluate our experiences in the light of the scriptures and grasp this truth, it will become easy for us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

In rebirth, we became God’s children. To prove ourselves as worthy children of our heavenly Father, we should deliberately endeavor to cultivate the divine virtues of our Father, in our inner person. This transformation is wrought by the Word of God operating in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Only this inner conformity with our heavenly Father will make us worthy children of God. If we earnestly desire for it and submit, we definitely can attain this goal set before us. Many do take it as a flowery impractical call from our Lord. No, it is the standard set before us. All divine provisions needed to attain it are provided for us by our heavenly Father; His perfection is our goal–‘Be perfect as  your heavenly Father is perfect.’ 

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