I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting. The following is the part of my talk I got written down. The rest I did to fit the time available in Church.
In Matthew 5:48, Christ says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
The word for ‘perfect’ in the Bible is Teles or Teleos, a word meaning complete, finished or fully developed. It is also a word used to describe one who has been through an endowment or initiation, one who is married and one who is fully adult. Looking at just the word ‘perfect’ can leave one confused as to what Christ meant and just exactly what he wanted us to do.
Because Christ wanted us to act, to do, to use his words and to find meaning, my talk today is on one small part of what Christ intended us to do when he told us to “Be ye therefore perfect.”
A good place to start is Luke 6:36 where Luke records the same sermon in a slightly different way. Luke records “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful.” The then follows up with “forgive and ye shall be forgiven” (at 37).
Matthew also reprises this theme when he records Jesus as saying “But go ye and learn what that meaneth: ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13).
It appears that an important part of what Christ wants us to learn, and to learn how to do, is to have mercy. That in commanding us to “be perfect” he is telling us to learn what mercy is.
But the real question is what does that really mean and what should we really do? Everyone knows, for example, that “be reverent” doesn’t mean much without more. That “to be reverent” is more than just another way to say “be quiet” and that the reason we are reverent helps us understand what we are to do on the inside as well as the outside.
The same process applies to that small part of being perfect that is being merciful. To understand the ‘why’ of being merciful as a part of being perfect, I look to two scriptures.
The first is D&C 64:9: “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another, for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”
The second is D&C 86:5 “Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields.”
Have you ever wondered how it can possibly be worse not to forgive someone than to be the one whose unrepented sins have provoked anger? What does that say about the mortal and the eternal worlds, about justice and mercy and us?
And what does it say about our world that the angels would just as soon see the day of judgment come without regards to giving any of us time to repent and be found with the wheat instead of the tares. It is Christ who says to wait.
How and why we should be better than the angels and become like Christ is what my talk is about.
I've been thinking a lot about this topic, about what it means to be children of God (rather than the assumption that once we are grown up we are adults in God) and a number of related topics.