Be Perfect, Be Holy, Be Merciful

A week ago I did a post on “Be holy as God is holy.” Then I did a post on being perfect. The comments I receive upon making these points are typically along the lines of, “God is more holy than we are, I can’t be holy.” Or “Jesus makes us perfect, that’s the only way, so that’s what it means.”

I don’t have much of an argument over that, however, it still says to be holy several times (Romans 6:19,22; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15,16; Revelation 22:11). And as pointed out the other day, we are told by NT writers to be perfect as well. Then there’s Paul’s doozy in 2 Corinthians 7:1 that tells us to be “perfecting holiness.” Nice.

What’s interesting is that there is not nearly this level of complaint when we covered “be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.” Everyone is for that one. Apparently we think we got that one covered. This is intriguing.

So, if we conclude that we can’t be perfect or holy like God, so we don’t really have to do those, why is it we so readily take on “be merciful?” Perhaps it’s because we don’t think God is all that much more merciful than us? Perhaps being merciful does not sound as hard as being perfect or holy? Perhaps mercy is just more fun to talk about?

Here’s the beauty, check out the context of “be ye perfect” and the context of “be ye merciful.” Oh don’t ya just love the Bible?! It’s the same context! One disciple remembers Jesus saying “be perfect” and one remembers Him saying “be merciful.”

What’s the resolution? Luke had a senior moment? Being perfect requires being merciful and being merciful requires being perfect. You can’t do one without the other. It’s funny we apparently think we can.

5 thoughts on “Be Perfect, Be Holy, Be Merciful”

  1. Yeah, I agree we most likely believe we are capable of being merciful, rather than being perfect or holy. Mercy is an act that we can show towards people we love, or even have had disagreements with. Perhaps for a moment of time I can be “perfect” when I extend mercy to someone who didn’t earn it. So yes, for moments of time we can be “perfect” in that regard. As far as being Holy as God is Holy, we can strive for it, but I don’t believe it’s attainable while we are trapped in our flesh. We have in our spiritual DNA, a nature that gravitates towards sin. When we come to God through the blood of Christ, He sees us as Holy, but only because of what Christ has accomplished, not by any effort of our own.

  2. Thanks. All jolly helpful for my sermon on Mark 7.7-23 this Sunday!

    My observation is that the general congregation has no concept that they can be (or indeed are) holy because of Jesus. Nor that they might be (or indeed are) sinful. Some (very) basic teaching is necessary and a lot of prayer.

  3. No, no. Is that why ministers have to take theology studies for years?…in order to find ways to prove that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says?

    When Christ gave Adam and Eve the sheep skin garments, do you suppose He put them over top of the fig leaves? In Zechariah’s vision of Joshua the High Priest (Zech. 3), did the angel put the clean garments over top of the dirty ones? Why is it then that almost every picture I’ve ever seen of that vision shows it that way?

    What is the problem with those foolish Galatians who wanted to be under the law: “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal. 3:10). The problem with those who seek to be justified by the works of the law is that they don’t keep the law…they can’t, because they strive to do it with their flesh, and not with the new life that God gives.

    Therefore, the opposite is also true: those who are not seeking justification by the works of the law, but justification by faith, are enabled to keep the law.

    If you find that you cannot keep the law, then the scripture is telling you that you are seeking it in the wrong way.

    Take another simple example: when Jesus came to the man at the pool of Bethesda did he pick up the man, and carry him around in his diseased state? No, he commanded the man to walk, the man acted in faith on the Word, and he was enabled to walk…the disease was gone. What is easier…to say “your sins be forgiven” or to say “rise and walk”?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: