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by Penn Clark

We usually think of the word perfect as being exact, infallible, or immaculate. While we think of God as being this way, we know that we will never achieve this kind of perfection.

We usually think of the word perfect as being exact, infallible, or immaculate. While we think of God as being this way, we know that we will never achieve this kind of perfection.

I don’t think Jesus was talking about sinless perfection as some have taught by taking this verse out of context. To me, the key to understanding what Jesus was saying about being perfect is in the context of being rejected, cursed, maligned, misused, and persecuted by our enemies. When we respond the way the Father does, we are being perfect, acting with spiritual maturity.

The word perfect involves completeness of growth in terms of full development, growth in terms of maturity, or growth in terms of godliness:

PERFECT GK. 5046 teleios, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness that which is perfect, consummate human integrity and virtue of men full grown, adult, of full age, mature.

Notice in the Greek definition that the word perfect has also been translated as maturity. So, it is safe to say that, whenever we begin to apply what Jesus’ taught to recover our relationships, we will become perfect—or spiritually mature. There are many in our pews who have put in the time and have been to endless meetings; they know the jargon and know their way around church politics, but they are not mature. I would even dare to say that there are pastors who have put in thirty years of ministry who are not the least bit mature. On the other hand, I have known some very mature teenagers.

In the chapters leading up to what Jesus taught about being perfect, we can see how it is our reaction to  those who oppose us that matters most. Doing what our Father’s does, so that we can become more like Him, should be the goal of every believer. He wants us to grow to the place where our character becomes like His character. When this happens, it is called maturity. I should quickly add that I am not talking about your first response to conflict. You would not be human if you did not feel hurt or discouraged when you are mistreated or offended. It is our second response, where we choose to apply what Jesus taught, rather than doing what we feel like doing, which determines how mature we are. Notice how Jesus used the word perfect when He invited the rich young ruler to follow Him as a disciple:

‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ (Matthew 19:21)

Years later, the apostle Paul used the word perfect when describing the purpose of the gift-ministries that Jesus gave to the Church:

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)

So whether you are a young disciple or well-established in ministry, the purpose is the same, and that is to become mature and to help others do the same. This was a central part of Paul’s ministry. He wanted to present every man mature when they stood before Jesus on the Day:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)

This should be every minister’s goal. It should become our primary mission in life. I would go as far as to say that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their children is to teach them how to become offense-proof. They should learn by observing how we respond, not just by our sermonizing.

If we can rust proof a car, can we offense proof a Christian? Just as surely as rust happens, offenses will come. Jesus promised this in a matter-of-fact way. Luke even recorded Him saying that it was impossible that they not come. Matthew heard it this way: “Offenses must come!” This implies that they may even be necessary for our spiritual growth.

Someone can be in church all their lives, having heard countless sermons, memorized entire parts of the Bible, speak in tongues, and prophesy like a house on fire but be lousy at resolving their conflicts or recovering our relationships, making everything else null and void.

There are those around us who have the mistaken idea that spiritual maturity is like natural maturity, which comes with age and experience. Maturity does not come with age, it comes by trying to do what the Father does. He was, in essence, saying, “Therefore, you shall be spiritually mature in your response, just as your Father in heaven is spiritually mature in His.”

I believe Jesus was saying that, when it comes to relating to our enemies, and how we respond to the negative things people do to us, we are being given an opportunity to show people what the Father is really like. All we need to do is respond the way He does. The offense or conflict serves as a means to know Him by experience and to make Him known.

Much of the deep work of becoming like the Father happens when we go through trials, have conflicts, and endure difficulties. Not that difficulties and conflict in themselves produce anything, but our response to them determines our growth. Lots of people have plenty of trials and difficulties, but they never grow spiritually. The apostle James said that it is not trouble that causes us to grow, but our response to it:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And we can often gauge our maturity by what comes out of our mouths:

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2)

What if we approached each conflict as an answer to our prayers when we told our Heavenly Father that we want to become more like Him? Thinking about it this way might help us to embrace offenses more readily, milking them for all they are worth. Now that would be a mature approach, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine if everyone in our churches lived this way or responded like this? It would be Heaven on Earth.

What we do with Matthew 5, 6, and 7 should be our measuring stick for maturity. Amen?

This was taken from my book What Jesus Said About Maturity which is an ebook locate at

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