Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:48
Wow! I’ve had some doozy of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve never dared to write down a resolution to be perfect. Even I know that’s not doable. I would have blown this one before I got out of bed this morning.
Resolutions are about positive change but being perfect throws me a curve ball I can’t touch. Maybe my hang up is with the word perfect so I did a little research. St. Luke describes the same discussion early in Christ’s ministry. The words are practically the same until we get to the perfect passage.
Luke records Jesus to say, “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” — Luke 6:36. Now perfect I’ll never be, but I can work on being more merciful. Maybe Luke is trying to make my life and goals a little easier. Or maybe Luke is giving us a road map to perfection.
When we show mercy we gain a glimpse of God’s heart. We learn what it feels like to be like God for a brief moment. So maybe Luke is showing us the way. I once had a conversation with a bunch of Judges about mercy. One of them asked me why she should show mercy to a particular defendant. She said, “He hasn’t done a thing to deserve mercy.” I tied to explain that it isn’t mercy if it is earned or deserved. True mercy flows freely from the heart with no expectations. A reduction in a sentence for good behavior or remorse is justice, not mercy. They are different concepts.
We may not be perfect, but we can resolve to be more merciful not just to our fellow beings, but to ourselves, as well. I don’t know a heart that couldn’t use a little bit of mercy. Do you?