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In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says "you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect". How can we be perfect when we all sin?
Thank you for this interesting question about Jesus' command to be perfect. You can be certain that Christians in every generation have felt just as you do!
Some Bible students have simply accepted that perfection is possible and Christians may if they wish, aim for it. The monastic movement has taken this view and hopes that becoming a monk or nun will lead to a purer life than is possible outside a monastery.
However, most interpreters point out that elsewhere in the New Testament it is made very clear that Christians cannot be perfect until we reach heaven. This is because, although our inner selves, or spirits, have been born again by the Holy Spirit to a new and eternal spiritual life, our bodies are nevertheless spiritually dead because of sin (Romans 8:10). This will only change in the eternal realm when we have renewed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40-44).
Most scholars believe that Jesus is holding out a goal for his followers to aim at, even though it is obvious it cannot be reached. We will be without sin in eternity: that is our calling and destiny as Christians. Therefore, we must aim for that destiny now as an act of faith in God's purpose for us, even though we know it cannot be reached in our sinful bodies.
In summary, Jesus does command us to be perfect, but it is clear that while we are on earth this cannot be fully attained. However, we are encouraged to try, to reject sin and pursue Christ. If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour for fear that you will fail in being perfect, then I encourage you to accept Him anyway. He loves you and through the work of His Holy Spirit will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13).
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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