I asked this on the Christianity Stack Exchange site, and they told me it would be better here. So I here I am asking it...

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 NKJV)

What is the text commanding here—what does "perfect" mean? Is there a different range of meaning for the Greek word translated "perfect" than its English counterpart?


11 Answers 11


Short Answer: In context "you are to be perfect" means "you are to love as God loves: without partiality"


First, consider the immediate context:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

Here Jesus is clarifying that (despite popular opinion) the intent of God's commandment was for His people to love everyone -- even their enemies. He then goes on to provide evidence that God exhibits this kind of impartial love (by citing His care for the wicked), thereby establishing the basis for His clarification of God's commandment. Jesus then clarifies that the attitude that you will "love those who love you" is nothing special; even the wicked do this. He then concludes with the following:

"Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In other words, having just explained how the Father is "perfect," and instructing God's people to behave similarly, He is now concluding with a summary statement.

So the flow of the paragraph could be summarized as follows:

You have heard "love with partiality" but I say to you "love impartially" so you can be sons of the Father; for the Father loves impartially. If you love with partiality, you are nothing special... even the wicked do that. Therefore, you are to love perfectly as the Father loves perfectly.

Answering the critics

Summarizing "perfection" as "love" may be a shock to modern interpreters, but it would not have been to the Apostles. For example, Paul wrote:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:14

James likewise contrasted partiality with fulfilling the "royal law":

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. -James 2:8-9

Jesus Himself clarified that the sign of a true disciple was his love for others:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:35

(The list goes on, but that should suffice for now.)

So it is not hard to see from Scripture that "perfection" (or "completeness" / "maturity"), "fulfilling the Law," and "loving others" are synonymous.

  • +1 Good Answer. "Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" does double duty. It is both a summation of Jesus' teaching on love and his teaching concerning the law. Commented May 25, 2013 at 22:46
  • Wonderful answer!
    – ktm5124
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 19:41
  • Do you have any evidence of a critical consensus, either in the Church or academia?
    – ktm5124
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 19:52
  • Excellent analysis and very helpful on what had been a rather difficult passage. The context provided here and the proposed 'summary' helped greatly. Like the responses from Steve and Mike below, I have shared with my minister, and and thrilled to have stumbled upon this.
    – user62159
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 14:10

This text is extremely controversial because it is used, by some, to suggest that we can attain sinless perfection in this life. Therefore, the question is, what is the "perfection" being discussed in Matt 5:48?

We can readily dismiss one possibility: Matt 5:48 is definitely NOT discussing sinless perfection for two simple reasons:

  • anyone who suggests such a thing should be asked, "Do you know anyone who attained sinless perfection? - the answer is either "No" or, if, "Yes" such a person is clearly confused.
  • 1 John 1:8, 10 says this: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ... If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us.

So, what is Matt 5:48 discussing? What is the perfection? It is possible to answer this question from just two considerations:

  • The immediately preceding context of Jesus sermon, ie, the previous verses, V38-47
  • The parallel passage in Luke 6:27-36

CONTEXT - Matt 5:38-47 - Love your enemies

Jesus' instruction in Matt 5:28-48 is an expansion of the that in the Torah found in Lev 24:17-23 about loving your enemies.

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jesus concludes with the statement, in V48 which is widely misunderstood. The operative word here is τέλειος meaning (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character (Strongs). Thus, God is asking His people to be as mature about their dealings with people, even those that are not their friends. V48 could that be translated:

Therefore, be mature in your dealings with people just as your Father is kind and mature in His dealings with even the wicked. (Dottard's paraphrase)

PARALLEL - Luke 6:27-36 - Love your enemies

The same instruction to love your enemies is recorded by Luke who concludes, V36 -

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


In context, Jesus is telling his disciples their standard is not to be the letter of the law but the perfection of God. The statement appears at the end of a segment in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus specifically deals with his disciples relationship with the law (Matthew 5:17-48). The section begins

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then continues, contrasting the explicit commandments of the law with a more difficult and internal command which he has set. The section is held together by a consistent refrain "you have heard it said... but I say to you."


21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.


27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.


38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.


43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

The next verse after Matthew 5:48 begins a new section in which Jesus addresses a new topic.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

He covers giving, praying and fasting with a new refrain, "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:1-18).

The statement "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" is thus the summation of Jesus' new law. The standard of those who follow Christ is not simply the law but the spirit of the law which is God himself. This is the perfection that Jesus calls his disciples too.

  • I came across this answer today for the first time and it seemed to me very similar to my logic on this answer, do you agree? Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 18:32
  • @JackDouglas the "murder, oaths,. .." bit could be yet, for instance, to me is very logical to approach that way too (which would make three of us) Commented May 16, 2021 at 5:52

The word ‘perfect’ essentially means ‘nothing which belongs left out’. This can be illustrated well by looking at how the Greek word is used in the LXX and the meaning of the Hebrew equivalents. Notice the large blue section, the most frequent use ‘intact, untouched, complete, perfect, whole, undivided’.

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When speaking of love, Jesus contrasts how the children of the father should live in contrast to the ethics of the religious people of his day. They would allow their love to be divided, often looking down on those they thought were morally inferior to themselves and hating their pagan enemies while only loving their own. They allowed their love to be divided and incomplete, unlike the Father who sent rain and both those who love him and those who despise him. If God shows kindness and love to all, then if we want to be like God we should do the same, i.e. do not let our love be divided, leaving something essential left out of our aim.

The word ‘perfect’ sometimes brings to our minds the ‘absolute perfect’, which would immediately pressure us to misinterpret the meaning. The New Testament never expects a believer to be ‘absolutely’ perfect but rather teaching the impossibility of being so. Neither is being ‘perfect’ a state that can be externally measured, as it is an internal private perfection, an internal complete attitude. It was the Pharisees who were very zealous of good works under the law and were trying to attain a perfection that could be codified and presented to others as proof positive in order to obtain praises and honor form men. It is no coincidence that this reminder is placed right after the command to be perfect so as to make sure we are not trying to be like Pharisees in our drive toward the divine:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (NIV, Mt 5:48–6:1)

The idea of moral perfection for a believer is not an attainable one but one of striving to be like God without any essential aspect excluded in the goal. There is not a point where we can identify ‘this is what is now a perfect state’ but rather this is the attitude one should have when striving for the perfect state not reachable in this life:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (NIV, Php 3:12–14).

Horton in ‘A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew’ summarizes it very well:

Ye shall be in character like God. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. When you love, and are merciful (Luke 6:36), you approach His perfection. The Law of Moses is the germ, but it must blossom into the law of love if you are to be like God.’ Phil. 3:12 shows how perfection in a creature is only the attitude of aiming at and striving after the Divine character. ‘Ye shall be perfect’ is the formula; but never on earth ‘Ye are perfect’, and still less ‘I am perfect’.( Horton, R. F. A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, p. 47)

  • This is an outstanding analysis. I've shared this with my minister, as we were recently speaking about the 'difficulty' of this passage and the seeming impossibility of 'perfection' with God as the standard. Just brilliant, inspiring, and truly helpful analysis. (By the way--you should publish this!!)
    – user62159
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 14:03

In Matthew 5:48, the word “perfect” is teleios, and the Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines it as “signifies having reached its end (telos), finished, complete, perfect.” For its use in this verse: “complete, conveying the idea of goodness without necessary reference to maturity…”

To get a fuller sense of Matt. 5:48, we must read the entire Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), of which this verse is a part. But the gist of the matter is that the perfection God desires of us is to have a heart inclined toward God in surrender and humility, and toward people as a sympathetic helper, as one who shares in their frail humanity (that is, does not think himself as superior to others).

“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (5:44) are all expressions of this inward state of humility before God and man. It is not a natural state; our natural bent is to put ourselves first. It’s the state of a person who has allowed God to fashion him according to His will.

In all these helpful actions, the victim sees in his enemies, haters, and persecutors people who do such things because they do not know God and are acting out of personal weakness. As Jesus said from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). There is no retaliation because the victim himself knows this frailty and has found God sustaining him. The victim doesn’t take it personally, but exhibits something of the grace that God has for sinners. God is love (among many other attributes -- don’t make Him a one-dimensional God!), and His desired end is that we be those who act out of love as well.

Showing love to others who don’t deserve it is what perfection looks like to God.

  • Very helpful response, Steve! And I think right on in what Jesus was getting at given the context of the Sermon on the Mount, and particularly the five verses immediately preceding 5:48. I've shared this with my minister, who, like me, has long struggled with this passage and its seemingly impossible standard to meet. Thank you!
    – user62159
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 14:13

Is perfection attainable according to Matthew 5:48?

Answer: Absolutely.

Matthew 5:48: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Perhaps we might ask this question: If we have been baptized into Christ, have all our sins not been washed away just as we have been promised? While we will be tested, and fail the test, we must brush ourselves off and continue to "walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light." (1 Jn. 1:7a) This results in our being "[cleansed] from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:7b). Note that this is an ongoing process of purification throughout the remainder of our lives in Christ.

If this were not true, how could we ever stand before God holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Col. 1:21)? How does God treat imperfection in His presence? Obviously, no human being is perfect; but they can be continually purified, and that is the point that many seem to overlook.

Consider more of what the New Testament has to say. Note the many times that God has proclaimed (or implied) that while we walk in the Light, we are not to be judged:

John 3:18a: “He who believes in Him is not judged" (emphasis added).

Only two chapters later we read:

John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who hears [obeys] My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (emphasis added).

How can we reconcile these passages if, after our faithful obedience to Christ, we are not spiritually perfect? Why would Christ ever make such claims (those emphasized in Jn. 3:18a, 5:24, Matt.5:48)? Of course, He is addressing those who have exercised obedience to His Word. Take a look at the next passage that speaks to the status of the saints:

Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added).

This passage appears to demonstrate that once we have clothed ourselves with Christ -- and keep our garments on, there is nothing to judge, we are spiritually flawless. Otherwise, how can we stand before God (as we do right now) with a clear conscience?

Those in Christ should understand that they have passed from being slaves of disobedience (imperfection) to become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18, perfection) as the children of God. Consider Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, which argues the point more emphatically:

Colossians 1:21-22: “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet [Christ] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before [the Father] holy and blameless and beyond reproach…” (emphasis added).

We were once alienated and hostile to God. We were “engaged in evil deeds” just as the text reads in verse 21. That is how God sees everyone outside of Christ, irrespective of whether we consider them “good” or “bad” because what we happen to think is irrelevant.

Paul’s letter to the saints at Corinth echoes the same sentiments as those in his Letter to the Colossians:

1 Corinthians 6:11: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God!” (emphasis added).

As before, note the similarity of the words to Col. 1:21-22: “washed,” “sanctified,” “justified.” Of course, those who have not been washed (baptized), sanctified (set apart), and justified (removal of condemnation, guilt, and sin) are filling up the measure of their wrath before the Throne of God right now.

As we walk in the Light, we have done all that is humanly possible to please God. Otherwise, we must ask ourselves this question: How do the words washed, sanctified, and justified as well as holy, blameless, and beyond reproach, not equate to spiritual perfection? (1 Cor. 6:11, Col. 1:21). Are there other such qualifications that do, and just what might those be?

Here are another set of relevant passages:

1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

What is missing here? Well, where is there any mention of judgment as imperfect humans? Are we to insert words that do not exist such as: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up to judgment and later be together with them in the clouds…”? How does such reasoning not imply that we are to stand in judgment for sins that have been washed by the blood of the Lamb?

Note what the writer of Hebrews has to tell us:

Hebrews 9:28: “[So] Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (emphasis added).

How can we read this and not understand that Christ will appear a second time without reference to sin. What does it mean to appear “without reference to sin”? Is this not equivalent to saying that we are perfect before God? When does God allow anything imperfect into paradise?

Elsewhere, Paul reveals the destiny of the saints when absent from the physical body:

2 Corinthians 5:8: “[We] are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

How is anyone “at home with the Lord” if they are still in sin -- imperfection? These are questions that beg to be asked.

Lastly, there are these two vital passages to consider:

1 John 1:7: [If] we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Only two verses later, this message is repeated, as though God is emphasizing the text for our benefit:

1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Of what sin and righteousness are we "cleansed"? That would be all sin and all unrighteousness. There is nothing but “glory and honor and peace” (Rom. 2:10) for those who have attained everlasting life through perfection in Christ, as long as we remain perfected.

The saints will always exist with God because they are "holy, blameless, and beyond reproach" (Col. 1:21-22).

It is our allegiance to God's Word that keeps us in this perfected state (1 Jn. 1:7, 9).


The conjunction οὖν (“therefore”) connects the following clause with what precedes it. What precedes the conjunction provides the reason why or the manner in which they should “be perfect, just as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

What precedes in vv. 43–47 is a lesson on the proper fulfillment of the commandment to love one’s neighbor. Do not only love those who love you, the Lord Jesus Christ says, but love even those who hate you:

44 ...Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.

If you demonstrate such “perfect love” (ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη),1 you will be “perfected in love”2 like the Father in heaven who Himself demonstrates such perfect love, for He Himself is love.3

In summary, yes, Christians can be perfect—perfect in love—if they love their brothers, both those who love them, and even those who hate them. This is the love that God expects of His children, as this is the love that God demonstrates toward His creation.4

1 1 John 4:18
2 ibid.
3 1 John 4:8, 4:16
4 Matt. 5:45 cf. Rom. 5:8

Let me suggest to you an alternative reading.

Much of Jesus' teachings on the Sermon of the Mount represent a point of view quite similar to the rabbis (the Pharisees) of his generation as reflected in their teachings recorded later in the Mishna and the Tosefta and in the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures. This point of view can be supported by Jesus' own words where he says in Matthew 5:17-20:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[c] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[d] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

See also Matthew 23:2-3 ("The scribes and the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses; therefore all they tell you, do and observe....").

Taken at its face, Jesus wants his followers to observe Torah exactly as the Pharisees were teaching and as opposed to the teachings of the Sadduccees (who at the time had one of its own as the High Priest, and who rejected the concept of life after death and punishment for sins after death, concepts which the Pharisees supported).

The rabbis taught that a person should strive to observe the 613 Torah commandments (365 negative commandments -- i.e. "thou shalt not..." and 248 positive commandments, i.e. "thou shalt..."). They would see little difference between Jesus' advice to be perfect on account that God is perfect. This parallels the teaching of Leviticus 19:2-3 where God tells Moses to tell the Jews, "You shall be holy kedoshim because "I the Lord your God am holy." The rabbis would only have said that the use of the word "perfect" for "holy" is a translation error. Being holy, or kodesh, is not a matter of being "perfect" per se. It is a striving to sanctify oneself to God. The same root is used for the word for the marriage ceremony, kidushin where the husband wife sanctify themselves to each other to the exclusion of everyone else. Many of the commandments regarding our relationship with God -- e.g. keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath, prayer, laws of ritual purity -- are designed to make us more sanctified to God and divorced from secularism.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 also lays out the importance of God of obedience to His commandments:

15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God[a] that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Although these verses assert God desire that the Jewish people follow God's commandments, it does not speak of perfection. The prophets did not see perfection in Torah observance as a requirement for righteousness because a lifetime of perfect observance is an impossibility. King Solomon, writing in Ecclesiastes 7:20, states "For there is not a righteous man upon earth that does good and does not sin." King David, writing in Psalm 19:8-14, praises God as perfect, the Torah laws as correct, enlightening and true, but notes that if he were judged on sins he was unaware of, he could never achieve "perfection." Accordingly, he asks God to help him to avoid sinning intentionally and to forgive and overlook his hidden sins, so that "then I will be perfect and I will be cleansed of much transgression."

This and much of Jesus' teachings on the Sermon on the Mount contradict the writings of later church leaders who questioned the point of observing the commandments at all, placing faith over actions. But if you look at Jesus as a rabbi of his era, this verse in Matthew is not complicated at all. I think he and the rabbis would agree that man's goal should be to reach perfection, and we should never cease pursuing that goal.


This verse used to stump me too. I have read the above answers in other places but they don't resonate.

When reading Oswald Cambers today I figured it out: Jesus (like Peter) is referring to absolute perfection (holiness).

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. (Leviticus 11:44 | ESV)

since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16 | ESV)

Holiness, as Chambers says, is "... the purpose of your life, ...destined end of man... destined end for mankind."

Holiness... our only option is the atonement. The holy blood of Christ...

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    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 15:21
  • If you could provide a full citation for your Chambers quote, this would also be appreciated. Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 15:40

For some reason I missed Jas 3.1's answer when I posted mine. I deleted mine when I realized that his answer is essentially the same. But I decided to undelete it since it includes some observations about the commandments to love that is not in that post. So consider this as a supplement to his post.

First, this statement seems to be an echo of "You shall be holy for I the LORD your God am holy" (e.g., Lev. 19:2).

Second, the word "perfect" (τέλειος) means "complete" or "whole".

Third, being perfect/complete/whole appears in the context of love for others. God shows love to both the wicked and the righteous (v. 45) and thus His love is whole/perfect. If a person only shows love to one's neighbor/friend (vv. 46-47) as commanded in Lev. 19:18 but not also to one's stranger/enemy as commanded in Lev. 19:34 (cf. Deut 23:7b [v. 8b in Hebrew]) and Ex. 23:4–5 and exemplified by Moses, for example, praying for his persecutor, Pharoah, in Ex. 10:18 then that person's love is partial/imperfect. And because his love is partial, so is his holiness, since these laws about love are in the context of being holy as God is holy.

In his Commentary on the Torah Richard Elliott Friedman makes an insightful note about holiness and love:

Some understand “Love your neighbor as yourself” as applying only to one’s fellow Israelites. Even if one takes that view of this commandment, one must acknowledge that in this same chapter there is also the commandment to love the alien, the foreigner, as oneself as well (19:34). The people of Israel are thus commanded to love all human beings, not just their own people, no matter how one understands the term. And this is extraordinary.

The law of Leviticus is pervaded with the notion of distinction: between priest and layperson, between holy and secular, between pure and impure, between Israel and the other nations, between good and bad, and sometimes simply between permitted and forbidden with no reasons given. The book defines the priest’s task (to distinguish, Lev 10:10) in terms that explicitly recall God’s creation by distinction in Genesis 1. The law of the eternal light recalls God’s first distinction in the creation (between light and darkness). Leviticus forbids one to merge that which has been distinguished in creation: to breed two species of animals together, to sow a field with mixed seed, or to wear clothing of mixed fabric, ša‘atnez (19:19). It establishes a specific location for sacrifice and excludes all others. Nadab and Abihu are killed for an act that exceeds their defined function. However, Leviticus does include one exception to this pervasive idea of differentiating, which, ironically, is perhaps the most famous line in the book, namely: “Love your neighbor as yourself!” Besides everything else that is impressive about this instruction, it stands out as anomalous in a book that so regularly makes distinctions.

If a person only love's one's neighbor/friend and not also one's stranger/enemy then one is not behaving holy as God is holy, for in these commandments of love God does not show distinction and that person's love for others is therefore not complete/perfect as God is complete/perfect.

This reading of Jesus' instruction——"Be perfect just as your Father in Heaven is perfect"——would also harmonize with Luke 6:36: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."


The Aramaic word for "perfect" in Matthew 5:48 "Therefore become "perfect," just as your Father in heaven is perfect," is "gmeera." Besides meaning "perfect," gmeera also means "mature" or "inclusive" depending on the context. Looking back several verses to Matt 5:44, one finds, "But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless anyone who curses you...." So, based on the context, I believe that the correct translation of gmeera in Matt 5:48 should have been: "Therefore be "inclusive" just as your Father in heaven is "inclusive."

  • Due to the nature of this site, references are required in order to support your conclusions. Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 4:31

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