Most of us are profoundly shaped by our parents and their expectations for us. Alongside their expectations for our behaviour growing up, they also impart, sometimes more explicitly, sometimes more accidentally, a raft of assumptions about the kind of lifestyle we will enjoy, the kinds of jobs and spouses that are appropriate for us, and the kinds of achievements we should aspire to. Sometimes these assumptions are a blessing, giving much needed structure to our lives, but often they are a burden as we struggle to live up to the expectations placed on us.
In our passage this week, Jesus lays down the ultimate parental expectation: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matt 5:48) How could any of us live up to that?
But Jesus gives this command in the context of saying God loves his enemies, let alone his children! If we understand it rightly, and keep coming back to him for grace, this call to perfection can be understood as a blessing, not a burden.