While I was at Crown College we had rules. We signed a piece of paper saying we would follow these rules. Some rules revolved around dancing, R-rated movies, tobacco, and alcohol. For some this seemed like a way to increase integrity among the students and faculty. I don’t recall if increasing integrity was the aim of these rules because rules don’t equal morality.
While Crown called me to a high moral standard God holds me to an even higher one when Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48).
I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Only God is perfect. So, how could Jesus actually call us to something that we, in ourselves, could never be? Is Jesus being illogical? Is he insane? No, he is only calling people to what he knows…Perfection. God would be less than God if he were to call us to something less than what his moral standard is. His perfect moral standard is something to strive for but it is also something that is impossible for the flesh.
Many times God’s law gets boiled down to simply what we do. I either do the right thing or the wrong thing. However, God’s law and moral code goes even deeper than actions. It calls into question the motives of men. Jesus has an interesting interaction with a young ruler who comes to him in Matthew 19. Verses 16-20 says:
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
I find the question that gets asked of Jesus interesting. The man asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t refute the idea that good deeds get you salvation. What Jesus does is he uses the man’s standard to show how undeserving he really is. The man goes on to say that he has followed God’s commands and wonders what else he could possibly lack. Jesus then cuts beyond the Ten Commandments when he responds to the man’s question, “What do I still lack?”:
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” –(21)
Jesus says, “If you would be perfect”. The bench mark goes beyond the Ten Commandments it goes to the heart of the individual. Jesus knows that this man coming to him is not capably or willing to do what it takes to earn his way to heaven. When Jesus, God in human flesh, asks the man to drop everything and follow him the man is not able to do so. We see the man’s reaction to Jesus’ words in the following verse (22):
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The young man had many riches and could not part with them to follow Christ. The depth of God’s law goes beyond mere doing the right and wrong things. It goes beyond a list of rules like those found at Crown College. It highlights the depth of the sin that dwells within people. None of us can be perfect on our own. But, through the sacrifice of Christ all of us that have embraced the Gospel have been labeled righteous before God.
Would you be willing to drop everything to follow Jesus?