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Be Perfect, But Be Careful
I love the structure of the sermon on the mount. The heart of the sermon is built on the thesis that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees. After making that statement Jesus lays out in extremely pointed language what that kind of righteousness looks like. After making this different kind of righteousness clear he calls us to be perfect as God is perfect. This call to perfection (maturity) is quickly qualified by the admonition to be careful how we live this righteousness.
Be perfect, but be careful. Living the righteous life is full of pitfalls. I don’t know that our motives are ever completely clean, but that is the goal for which we strive. That is why constant, honest evaluation is an essential part of living the Jesus life. And as we honestly examine ourselves we will regularly work our way through the first four beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-6).
We see something in our lives that is out of line. Let’s suppose that we catch ourselves bragging about how much time we spent in prayer, or how much we contributed to a specific ministry, or how much work we did on a certain service project. When we examine ourselves we realize that we are bragging because we want others to be impressed with our spirituality. We are really desiring their approval and hope that they recognize we are a little more spiritual than most others who claim to follow Jesus.
This awareness is not swept under the carpet because, “everybody does this” or “at least I’m not as bad as others.” Rather, we take this “unrighteous” motivation to the cross of Christ. We come to the cross broken- hearted (poor in spirit). We don’t want to be this way. Our brokenness leads us to genuine sorrow over our sin (mourn). We surrender ourselves once again to the lordship of Jesus (meek) and reaffirm our desire for every area of life to be under his control. Our motive is nothing short of letting Jesus live his life through us (hungering and thirsting for righteousness).
As we go through this process we give the Holy Spirit the room he needs to make us more fully into the person God has already proclaimed us to be. We thank God that he has made us his child and begin again to live out of our true identity. This repeated journey to cross is the process by which we become more and more like Jesus. “Be perfect” – that is our goal. “Be careful” – that is what keeps us honest.