How Can You and i be Perfect?


I was trying to discover what Catholicism teaches about how to make it to heaven in another discussion thread. One thoughtful Catholic advised me to obey the words of our beloved Redeemer Jesus:“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”(Matthew 5:48, New American Bible)
I took a close look at what our loving Savior Jesus said, here, and noticed that he used the word be instead of the word become. Now, i can imagine how to strive to become as perfect as God, and do not think that i would ever achieve this on this side of eternity. However, i cannot apprehend, much less comprehend, how to be (right now) perfect.

Please, will anyone explain how i can be (in the present tense) perfect? If i am misunderstanding what Jesus is saying, here, can you explain what he really meant?



well you probably can, don’t know about me, when you get to heaven put in a good word, please.


Are you playing the Cheshire Cat, puzzle, or the Mad Hatter?



Yet this is what is demanded of us. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20

If i am misunderstanding what Jesus is saying, here, can you explain what he really meant?

That is really what he meant. That is the rules.

What about those who aren’t perfect and have sinned?
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you,for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 26:27-18


“Be perfect” is an imperative, that is a command, not a declaratory statement. What this means is that it is possible for us to be perfect in the sense intended in the passage and that we ought to be perfect in the sense intended by the passage.

It is possible by cooperating with God’s grace to get rid of all venial sins and imperfections in our lives. Most of us won’t do this, but it is possible. If it weren’t possible, then those things wouldn’t really be sins or imperfections at all since they would be beyond our control.

I think the command “be perfect” is equivalent in extension to: “Don’t sin and do those good things that God gives you the actual graces to do.”


And equivalent to “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”


The “sense intended in the passage” is as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

It means just that. That is the requirement.


It’s analogous, it seems, to a command like, “Don’t sin”. Certainly, Jesus wasn’t unaware that we are all sinners, but that command is a great deal more direct and meaningful than “Try not to sin, but I’ll forgive you if you’re sorry”.

In other words, we are under orders not to sin. Given our inability to follow orders, there is now (due to Christ) a way to get back to square one and follow instructions this time.


  1. You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; 45. That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the Publicans do the same? 47. And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Publicans do so? 48. Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus is paraphrasing what God said to Moses in Leviticus 19:1-2:

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: **Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy. **

The book of Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses. While Moses brings the Ten Commandments, Jesus brings the Beatitudes so that we can become “perfect” and share in His divine life.

In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus was talking to His disciples. He was teaching about morality. Immediately before this passage He tells His disciples to love their enemies. He told them not to be like the pagans but to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” My interpretation of what Jesus was saying to his disciples in essence is this “Love your enemies. Yes, I realize I am asking a lot of you, but you are children of your Heavenly Father. I expect more out of you than I expect of the pagans. Imitate your Heavenly Father."


Here are Commentaries from the ECF’s on Matthew 5:43-48.

You can get them from this website:

Augustine (d 430 AD)–These indeed are examples of the perfect sons of God; yet to this should every believer aim, and seek by prayer to God, and struggles with himself to raise his human spirit to this temper. Yet this so great blessing is not given to all those multitudes which we believe are heard when they pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)-- Note through what steps we have now ascended here, and how he has set us on the very pinnacle of virtue. The first step is not to begin to do wrong to any; the second, that in avenging a wrong done to us we be content with retaliating equal; the third, to return nothing of what we have suffered; the fourth, to offer one’s self to the endurance of evil; the fifth, to be ready to suffer even more evil than the oppressor desires to inflict; the sixth, not to hate him of whom we suffer such things; the seventh, to love him; the eighth, to do him good; the ninth, to pray for him. And because the command is great, the reward proposed is also great, namely, to be made like to God, You shall be the sons of your Father which is in heaven.

Jerome (341-420 AD)–**For whoever keeps the commandments of God is thereby made the son of God; he then of whom he here speaks is not by nature his son, but by his own will. **

Augustine–After that rule we must here understand of which John speaks, He gave them power to be made the sons o****f God. One is His Son by nature; **we are made sons by the power which we have received; that is, so far as we fulfill **those things that we are commanded. **So He says not, Do these things because you are sons, but, do these things **that you may become sons. **In calling us to this **then, He calls us to His likeness, for He says, He makes His sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous. By the sun we may understand not this visible, but that of which it is said, To you that fear the name of the Lord, the Sun of righteousness shall arise

**Remigius **–Because the utmost perfection of love cannot go beyond the love of enemies, therefore as soon as the Lord has bid us love our enemies, He proceeds, **Be you then perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. He indeed is perfect, as **being omnipotent - man, as being aided by the Omnipotent. For the word ’ as’ is used in Scripture, sometimes for identity, and equality, as in that, As I was with Moses, so will I be with you

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM–For as our sons after the flesh resemble their fathers in some part of their bodily shape, so do spiritual sons resemble their father God, in holiness.


It’s impossible. Everyone sins. Even if no one did, everyone still has the root of corruption in them. To tell people to be perfect is absurd - it would be as easy to see without eyes; it can’t be done. No one expects horses to fly, so no one tells them to - no amount of trying will ever lead to growing wings, let alone to flying. So here - no effort can ever lead to being perfect.

Solution - create a perfect race. *That *will be perfect, & only that - but imperfect human beings can’t do it. This is the fallacy of the “God of one hundred per cent” - perfection is not possible for a day, let alone a lifetime.

Phillips identifies absolute perfection as a false god. He claims the one hundred percent standard is a real menace. It is a prescription for guilt and misery."

To expect total perfection is the sort of thing which makes Christianity hell for the scrupulous - people have quite enough trials to cope with, without taking on a yoke as murderous as that. ##


[quote=Gottle of Geer;2078662

I think you misunderstand me. I’m saying that “be perfect” is the same as “do not sin”. We are not told in Scripture or the Catechism to “attempt” to “avoid” sin; we are told to avoid sin.

We’re not told to “try not to speed”, but “not to speed”.

An absolute rule doesn’t mean “you’re screwed if you mess up” unless it says that. Christ didn’t say “Be unerringly perfect”; he said “Be perfect”.

We know that we can now be forgiven for our sins; “Be perfect” does not contradict that.



What are you trying to say, we can be “erringly perfect”? :ehh:

I agree so far.

An absolute rule doesn’t mean “you’re screwed if you mess up” unless it says that.

It does say that.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment

and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


I took “be perfect” as including “avoiding sin” - it’s an impossibly high standard. FWIW, I can’t see any difference between “be unerringly perfect” & “be perfect”. Perfection is like pregnancy - one is, or one isn’t; one is not pregnant, or perfect, “slightly”, or “up to a point”.

If “attempting” is not enough, this is a revoltingly cruel demand, because it is insanely unrealistic. There really is no other description for it :frowning: :frowning:

Not speeding is child’s play in comparison.


Here is what Jesus meant in Mt 5:48…

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Jesus wants us to strive for holiness and perfection, for if we do, we will see the Lord. However if we aren’t perfect (completely sanctified) when we die, we must wait to enter the fullness of heaven and the next verse explains why…

Rev 21:27 "but nothing unclean will enter it,[heaven]

Also since I can see you are a fan of Augustine (as am I) I hope you don’t mind if I add this little quote of his. :slight_smile:

"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment. "
(St. Augustine, City of God 21:13)


Be complete or perfect.

Jesus makes us complete.

Moreover, in the readings today, “I will make you follow my laws.”

He has won for us new hearts.

He has won for us a new spirit, again in today’s readings.

We are now His children.

We have died with Christ.

His love is poured into our new hearts.

The Father will draw us.

His love makes us complete.

When love is heard by faith, we are complete.

The that love grows.

You will love God with your entire being.

Love God and enter heaven.

A child loves her mother and father.

The love is like ours for God. It grows even if it the love makes some mistakes.

Our idea of perfection in 2007 is not biblical.

Perfect meant complete.

His love makes us complete.

When love is heard by faith, we are complete.

Love does grow.

Love is first.

Love is greatest.

Love is in charge of faith.

We are saved by His gift of a new heart and new spirit.

God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son.

God’s love saves us.

When love is heard or accepted by faith, then we are in Heaven.

We are in the Kingdom now.

We have died with Christ.

The old self is dead.

The new self lives. Praise God!


Wow…interesting way of looking at it! :thumbsup:

[quote=Angainor]What are you trying to say, we can be “erringly perfect”?

Obviously not. What I’m saying is that we must follow the direction “Be perfect”, and seek the Lord’s forgiveness when we fail – and then start all over being perfect again.

It does say that.

Surely you aren’t suggesting that this passage means only those who have not sinned and do not sin will ever get to heaven? :confused:



Excellent thoughts, all. I don’t have time to consider them all at the moment, but i will and let you know what questions i have. :thumbsup:


Yes that is what I am suggesting the passage means. It is pretty clear. You sound a lot like Jesus’ disciples after Jesus explained to the rich man what he must do to get into heaven."…Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"
Matthew 19:24-25
Now,And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you,for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28
The Good News is that Jesus freely offers total forgiveness of those sins that would otherwise keep us out of heaven. Transgressions get blotted out like they were never there.for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Romans 3:23-24


This is exactly my point. :slight_smile:

And I’m not asking “Who then can be saved?” The answer is anyone who follows Christ’s instructions to “Be perfect”, and seeks forgiveness when he falls short of perfection.

I think you and I are on the same page.


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