“So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:48 NET
Nobody’s perfect. You’ll hear this cliché on the lips of saints and sinners, excuse-makers and mature disciples.
Our modern definition of perfect is to be without sin. And by that the phrase, “Nobody’s perfect” is correct, even though the use of it often seeks to get people off the hook and excuse sin.
In the Biblical sense, however, “perfect” does not mean to be without sin. If it did, Jesus could not have been “perfected” (Hebrews 5:9), since he, in all his temptations and trials, was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:16).
The Biblical sense of “perfect” means to be complete or mature.
The perfect love like the Father’s means we love both friend and enemy — our love is as complete or all-encompassing as God’s.
To say, like the NIV/NASB Study Bible, and so many other commentators, that God’s perfect love is an “ideal” that we cannot fully attain in this life, misses the point of Jesus’ command entirely. Not only can we love like God, we must!
Jesus himself said right before his perfect love command, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:46). There is no reward from God for the imperfect lover! If our love is like the pagans, we have nothing in common with the Lover of all men.
We rejoice in trials, because it helps us to mature. or as James wrote, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything” (James 1:3-4).
This perfection happens in this life, not the next, James says, because it’s the maturity of the saint who has learned to bear up under the duress of bitter trials.
So nobody’s perfect? Some of us had better be. Especially if we want to reach that sinless state of eternal life.