In His sermon on the mount, Jesus says
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.Matthew 5:48
We’ve all heard this scripture before. And we’ve all probably felt like we could never be as perfect as Heavenly Father is. I know I have felt that way. The truth is, we are mortals, and we will never be perfect in this life. Christ was the only one who achieved that. So the question remains, how are we supposed to keep this commandment from the Savior?
If you look at this verse in the actual scriptures, there’s a footnote on the word perfect which offers a different translation on the Greek. It says that the word perfect could have been translated as complete, finished, or fully devolped. The note on the same verse as it’s shared in the Gospel Topics essay “Becoming Like God” adds the word whole to replace perfect. The idea is that Jesus isn’t commanding us to do the impossible and be perfect. He’s commanding us to work for something more.
Honestly, when I first pondered these new words, I immediately thought of meditation for some reason. Now, I don’t know the first thing about meditation, but there was something about the thought of being complete, whole, fully developed, etc. that evoked mindfulness and a deep spirituality and connectedness with the universe and with God. Maybe Christ was commanding us to meditate?
Anyway–I’d like to explore the alternate word choices complete, finished, fully devolped, and whole, and see if we can’t come up with some alternate things that Jesus is commanding us to do.
Heavenly Father is complete. He knows good from evil. He knows right from wrong. He knows the end from the beginning. He is complete. When He promises something, He gives it. There is nothing missing or lacking in His personality or attributes, or His love.
Be ye therefore complete, even as your Father which is in heaven is complete.
Heavenly Father is finished. This makes me think of a sculpture or a painting or a story. The amazing work of art that He is is finished. He has all the colors, the shading, the shapes. I don’t even know what that means, but He’s finished, polished, resplendant. We know from Joseph Smith that God once lived as a man on a former planet. His life there is finished and now He lives eternal life. We can be like Him too by following His Son and finishing our lives with honor and righteousness. We can finish our lives well by enduring to the end. Finishing the course.
Be ye therefore finished, even as your Father which is in heaven is finished.
Heavenly Father is fully developed. While I was enrolled in college, I took comfort in the fact that God was a master in mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, and solving problems. He knows everything! And He’s not just an expert in the sciences, but He’s a genius when it comes to people, and literature, language, and art. I can imagine He could compose a pretty angelic symphony if He wanted to. We make goals in the areas of spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social; and I think the Father is fully developed in all of those areas. He’s a spiritual giant, as well as an intellectual giant, has physical mastery, and the social skills of a God interracting will untold billions of humans (and animals).
In basketball, they tell you to practice the skills that are difficult for you. If you’re great at jump shots but lowsy at left-handed layups, guess what you need to practice. Yep–left-handed layups. I guess in this analogy, we need to practice our layups so our game can be fully developed.
Be ye therefore fully developed, even as your Father which is in heaven is fully developed.
And this one is my favorite. Heavenly Father is whole. Whole can mean a lot of things, but what I like it most to mean is healed. Jesus commanded us to be healed. What part of us is broken? Where does it hurt? What is making us sick? God is whole. There’s not a part of Him that is injured or hurting. If He had infirmities in His former life, they are all now healed. He is whole.
Christ provides the way for us to heal. It’s Him! It’s the Savior that heals us. He commands us to be healed and be whole. What do we need to do to be healed? Find that and do it–whether it be a physical illness or a spiritual one. He will help us with all healing until one day, we can be whole as the Father is.
Be ye therefore whole, even as your Father which is in heaven is whole.
Be you therefore whole. Ponder it. What does this commandment mean to you?
I like this thought because it means that we don’t have to be perfect in this life. We can’t be. We’ll make mistakes and fall short. But it’s Christ that covers us and makes up the difference. He’s the one that makes us whole.
I know this is a bit different for this blog that’s mostly about science and reconciliation with religion, but I was reading on this topic last night I felt like I should write about it–however incoherent it may be. I know I’m not a master in theology, but I do want some space on the blog for more gospel-less-science-centered topics. I’m a firm believer that all truth is truth, and I think some spiritual things here and there can only enhance our understanding of the universe around and within us.
Sources and Notes
- Some mind-expanding thoughts on meditation and the gospel:
- Gospel Topics Essay: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/becoming-like-god?lang=eng
- President Nelson (then Elder Nelson) in 1995: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1995/10/perfection-pending?lang=eng
- Image of Christ meditating: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/397301998359666614/?autologin=true