Perfect Love

Looking at the 3 verses around this study of "be perfect" we recognise that it is something to be built, it is both growth and submission - Humble obedience.


When God is the measure of perfection - "be perfect, just as your Father " - trying to grasp this concept may seem incomprehensible let alone practical. I find it helpful to understand this perfection is not quantified in measure but in essence. You do not have to be big to be perfect. Circles come in many sizes, diameters and dimensions. Regardless of its size it can still be perfect. It is not more or less perfect dependant on its size.



NATURE OF THIS PERFECTION

Today let's set some foundations and explore more of Jesus' call to "be perfect".


"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" Mathew 5:48


Whenever we see a therefore in scripture we must look at the previous words for context:


“You have heard that it was said,‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Matthew 5:43-47


Do you take those words as they are? Do you take them seriously?


As difficult as it may seem Jesus has given us, in these words, a great understanding of what it means to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. First of all perfection comes through in relationships. It is relational. Perfection means dealing rightly with all people. Not just our friends, the people that make us feel comfortable but with all people, even the wicked, the wrong & our enemies. Secondly the perfection to which we are to relate to people is summed up in the word LOVE. The idea, the principle of "be perfect" cannot be separated from love.


MATURE AND FULL

The term perfect composes of two parts, one is maturity and the other fullness or completeness.


Let me explain by illustration: In our home garden we have a pomegranate tree, something we're very excited about. Last year during its fruiting season I was delighted and in awe of seeing these wonderful fruits growing on the tree. I'd never seen pomegranate outside of the market place before so when I saw small fruit budding from flower I was excited. It's a wonderful thing to see fruit grow. I digress. The fruit on that tree at a third of its complete size was in one sense perfect, there was nothing wrong with it in any way. Yet in another (more important to me) sense it was not perfect because it had not come to full maturity.

Imagine reading your favourite book, or watching your favourite movie. It's perfect in every way. If a chapter were to be removed or a pivotal scene were to be deleted it would no longer be complete, it is no longer the complete perfect work you had loved.


To be perfect you have to be both mature and complete. Hereby we recognise that this involves a process.


So how does this work itself out in the Christian life?

In Romans 5:5 we read:

"the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."


The love of God. Not some, not the amount you deserve, not part of what you will receive. The total, complete love of God is poured into our hearts.


Has been poured out. Not just being poured, has been poured by the Holy Spirit.


These distinctions may seem small but I believe they are really important to consider to absorb the fullness of the meaning.


I believe this outpouring of God's love is received by all who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit. (I wrote a blog about the receiving of the Holy Spirit in series around the normal Christian birth).


It is one manner to have it poured out, often a life altering, glorious moment which can have you so overwhelmed by Gods love you can not help but to be brought to tears, or to proclaim his goodness to others or embrace the person nearest you. The overflow of God love in us can produce all kinds of results.

The pouring out has to be worked out! At the moment this love overflows us its hard to imagine that we could ever face a trouble moment in our lives ever again. As we looked earlier the call to "be perfect" is a process and this receiving of the Holy Spirit is indeed essential, it is the perfect, divine and complete grace by which we are perfected , but it is a process that needs to be worked out.


Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Phillipians 2:12-13


Herein lies an important part of this working in of God and our working out. They go together. If God did not work in there would be nothing for us to work out, if we don't work it out, God can't work any more in. The limit of what God can work in us is set by that which we work out. If we cease to work out what the Lord has done in us, there is no reason for God to continue working in. If however, we go on working out, then God goes on working in. The initiative comes from God, as it always does. We are responsible for the out working of that which God has poured in.



JESUS FORERUNNER OF BEING PERFECTED.


"Though He was a son [the Son of God], yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. Hebrews 5:8-9


"Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" Romans 8:9


When we are born again we receive the Spirit of Christ. The nature of Christ is born into us through the new birth but it must then become part of our character - that is the process of growth, maturity, the working out.


Incredibly in the verse above from Hebrews we see that even Jesus had to be perfected! He was never imperfect but his perfection had to be worked out in His life and it was worked out in one key manner obedience. This obedience is costly. This obedience was born by the things He suffered. We would do well to remind ourselves the reality that the call to truly be Jesus' disciple comes at a cost, it comes with suffering but it is the only way to build upon the love of God poured out in us.


Another incredible statement in the verse from Hebrews is that Jesus learned obedience. How can you learn obedience? By obeying. There is no theory, there is no systematic understanding to learning obedience. You can not learn obedience outside of obeying. Jesus was never disobedient or rebellious or needing to be "brought into line" but the nature of learning obedience requires the active action of obeying.


In light of this, every day is an opportunity to learn obedience. Remember this every day but especially in moment where you are going through difficulty and suffering. This principle is the same in almost every area of the Christian life. We learn by doing. We learn endurance by enduring. We learn love by loving, we learn faithfulness by being faithful etc. Each day we are presented with opportunities to learn and grow by working out the Spirit but in us through obedience.



LOVE

In todays world the concept of love seems to have lost all meaningful definition. Not only has our understanding of love been so transformed by every passing generation but our ability to love others has been radically transformed. Individualism, competitiveness, meritocracy and ideological diviciveness have so infected culture that the idea of loving ones enemies is so foreign many a Christian may re read the command and impart their own exemptions or metaphorical understanding.


"Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar." Romans 3:4.


The Lord is the ONLY way back to perfect love. The love of God.


"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him." 1 John 2:5


If you want to know if you love God you need simply to look at how well you keep his word. It was Jesus who said "He who has my commandments and keeps them it is he who loves me". You do not love God any more than you obey His Word. The point at which you disobey His Word is the point at which you stop loving God.

The second thing to take from this verse is the aspect of having Gods love perfected in you. Worked in you. It is not just that you love Him by obeying His Word, but it is also the means by which God's love is perfected in you. The word love here is not a feeling, or an emotion. The word love here is AGAPE in greek.


From Britannica: "Agape, Greek agapē, in the New Testament, the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the transcendent agape love is the highest form of love and is contrasted with eros, or erotic love, and philia, or brotherly love."


This love expresses itself in the manner in which you live and something worked deep in your character. It is something that God works in as we work it out. We, fickle, culturally effected, humans will not always feel loving. In fact there is nothing in us that can truly produce this Agape love in us outside obedience. We work out the Agape love of God through obedience and he continues to work more agape in us.


There is two realities about agape love which are challenging if understood. As agape love is not emotional, or feelings based solely it means there is no room for making excuses based on what you feel. You may not feel like loving your enemies, but you can still choose to love them. Choosing to not love someone based on your feelings is actually showing, through your disobedience to God, not only your lack of love for others but also your lack of love to God!


The call to "be perfect" is a matter of maturity and completeness.

Perfection and love cannot be separated from one another.

God pours his love and the nature of Jesus into our heart.

Our love of God is measured by our obedience.

We are perfected in love through obedience to the Word of God.


We need to earnestly commit with sincere desire to love God and grow in a more intimate relationship with Him.


Dear Father in heaven. I recognise I cannot be perfect in my own strength. Pour out Your love and grace in my heart in such a way that I may walk with You in obedience. I want to learn obedience as Jesus did, and I commit myself to study your word and obey it, loving You and learning to love others by what you teach me from Your Word. Thank you in advance for helping me to take this step.

May you Holy Spirit, strengthen me each day as I walk out this commitment and draw me to an understanding of the circumstances of my life and how they are opportunities for learning obedience. Give me eyes to see every moment as an opportunity to love you through obedience to you word. As I read your word Lord, help me to see the commands of Jesus as cues to embrace you lovingly.


In Jesus' name. Amen.













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