There are one of two ways a guy can approach commands like “be holy,” “be perfect” and “be merciful” with God as our example.
1) Legalism. OH, OK, no problem. I’ll get right on that. I’ll memorize Scripture and do everything it says and point out how you don’t. Got it.
2) Licentiousness. Hey, I can’t do that. But I’m under grace, God forgives me so who cares! Whoohoo party time! Let us sin that grace may abound!
Scripture has a problem with both approaches. Surely there is another way.
Illustration: A little league player asks his coach “Coach, what’s the point of being up to bat?” Coach says, “There’s only one reason for batting: get on base.”
When this little league batter strikes out, does the coach kick him off the team? “You’re horrible! Don’t you ever listen to me? I said to get on base!”
Is he giving him an impossible standard that will doom him to eternal cubdom? Should all prospective little leaguers say, “You know, that really doesn’t seem worth it. That coach says I’m supposed to get on base every time, I can’t do that. Never mind.”
Here’s the point: What’s God supposed to say? “Hey guys, I know you’re sinners, nothing I can do about that. Just muddle in mediocrity. Shoot for being slightly better than Judas.”
Trying to do something that is impossible is pretty much life on earth, from little league baseball to making the perfect kitchen table to having the perfect conversation with your wife to spiritual perfection.
We look unto Jesus, He’s who we are being formed into. Our goal, our desire, and our command is to be like Him as much as possible even now. That’s why we’re told to be perfect, to be holy and to be merciful: that’s what Christ is.
It is also what we are becoming through the power of the Holy Spirit and the renewing power of God’s grace if we indeed decide to labor in that direction.