What it means to be perfect in Christ

Jesus commands His disciples to be perfect. In order to achieve this, we need to love perfectly. In Matthew 5:43-48, our Lord points out that you’re no better than anyone else if you only love those who love you. To be perfect in God’s eyes, we must love our enemies too! We’re even commanded to bless the people who curse us.

We think of “perfect” as being “flawless and immaculate,” but the Greek word teleiƍs translated “perfect” means to be “mature and complete”. This is the word that Jesus used in verse 48 when He said: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”.

Because God is perfect, He desires perfection from His children. In fact, Jesus commanded it. Specifically, Jesus encouraged His disciples to love their enemies in the same way that God loves them. By doing this, our lives will be a perfect example of the maturity that He desires from us.

Because we live in a fallen world, we’ll never achieve God’s standard of perfection until Christ returns, but this doesn’t excuse us from trying. The Apostle Paul described his mindset in this matter when he said:
I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me. I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven.
Philippians 3:12–14 (ERV)
Because Paul knew he was a spiritual giant in the eyes of the Philippian saints, he wanted them to know that, even after walking with Christ for 30 years, he had not yet attained perfection. We too will never meet God’s perfect standard by our own power. We must trust God in faith and rely on Christ's righteousness for our salvation while doing our very best to live up to His perfect example.

We can’t be satisfied with camping out on a plateau in our spiritual growth. We must press on, striving every day to be more like Jesus.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
1 John 4:7 (NLT)
As we mature in love, our love motivates us to please God. The Apostle John affirms that it’s love and not fear, that should motivate us. Remember, we must not think of “perfect” as meaning “flawless”. None of us will be flawless and faultless in this lifetime, but we can continue to mature in our love for God and His people.