By what do you measure your life? In an age when the “dumbing-down” of every standard is the norm, and measurements of behavior which were once thought unacceptable are now applauded, are we in danger of settling for something less than the standard the Word of God has established for us? Consider just four areas in which the standard is nothing less than the very character of God.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Is it possible to attain to this standard? “Perfect” does not convey the idea of being sinless but can convey the thought of being complete, mature, or fully grown. The verses preceding this command involve the treatment of others (vv38-47), so the perfection alluded to here involves treating others with the same patience, mercy, and grace with which God has treated me. It means that the character of God determines my treatment to my brethren and to the unsaved. Do you treat others the way in which God has treated you?
“As God is true” (2Cor 1:18). Paul’s movements had been called into question by the Corinthian believers. Paul was able to say that his own reliability and truthfulness took character from God’s reliability. “As God is true” should mark our promises and intentions. Lying, deceit, and carefully worded statements which allow us to deny we ever “meant” something by what we said, should have no place in a believer’s speech. Our words should be as clear and reliable as God’s words to us. A believer’s word should be as good as a contract.
There may be no greater test of godliness and spiritual life than to be called upon to forgive. We play many mind games to excuse ourselves and hide our unwillingness to forgive. Yet Ephesians 4:32 directs us to forgive one another “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Issues of repentance and the like aside for a moment, it should suffice us to remember that it cost God an infinite price to forgive us. I should be willing to “lose” something in order to “gain ” my brother (Matt 18:15). The standard of forgiving love is nothing less than, “as God.” As a minimum, I should always maintain a forgiving spirit, mirroring a God Who is “ready to forgive” (Psa 86:5).
Peter’s letter reveals a standard for purity of life which most of us dismiss as unrealistic. “Be ye holy for I am holy” (1Peter 1:16). Peter is quoting from Leviticus where this truth is enunciated in three different places. In Leviticus 11:44, it is linked with the food they ate; in Leviticus 19:2 with the focus of their lives; and in Leviticus 20:23-26 with the friendships they pursued. We can never, in this life, be as holy as God, but we can “perfect holiness” (2Cor 7:1) by giving care to what we feed upon, what we focus upon, and the friendships we make.
Peter emphasizes the need for disciplining our minds (“gird up the loins of your mind,” 1Peter 1:13), of directing our appetites to the Word of God (2:1, 2), and of care as to our associations (2:11). All of these are essential steps for us.