Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
It is not always wise to take Jesus literally. His language and the context in which he speaks have to be considered. This is one example. The teaching of the Bible is that we are imperfect and that perfection comes when Jesus returns and we live with him in the new heavens and the new earth.
Those who strive for perfection this side of heaven are putting an intolerable burden on themselves. We are always work in progress. And those same people who have a streak of perfectionism in them make it very hard for others. A perfectionist is hard to live with, hard to work with. Nothing or no one is ever good enough. Nit picking demands means we can’t enjoy life with all its inherent imperfections.
So what is Jesus getting at? We need first to understand the word “perfect” has the meaning of mature or complete. Not quite how we might see it. We also need to consider what Jesus has just been talking about. He is urging his followers to go beyond legalistic sort of love and go the extra mile. Love others as God loves them. Let their love be complete and not half hearted, let their love be mature and not bound up with rules and regulations.
Our love, like our lives in general, will always fall short of perfection. But it can still reflect something of God’s love. While we can’t expect perfection of ourselves or others, we should expect to seek to love God’s way. We neither expect too much or expect too little.