Add or Subtract?

I've always been fascinated by the challenge Jesus gives people who would follow Him in Matthew 5:48. The Pharisees had given people an unsurmountable standard of living. Jesus preached His whole sermon from Matthew 5-7 to show that the Pharisees were placing a load on the shoulders of the people that was far too heavy. Their standard of behavior wasn't possible. Nobody can keep all those rules.

But here's the amazing thing about the sermon on the Mount: Jesus gave the people a standard that was achievable, but also much higher. He called them to perfection. Completeness. Wholeness.

The Pharisees had tried to reach holiness by adding behavior after behavior. Jesus was concerned about behavior, but the whole point of Jesus sermon was to demonstrate that better behavior wasn't the thing missing in the puzzle of human completeness. In fact, the problem wasn't an addition problem at all.

You don't become "perfect" when you've added all you can. Quite the opposite. You become whole; complete; everything God intended when everything you've added is scraped away.

Peter uses the illustration of refined gold to talk about holy faith (1 Peter 1:7) just before he reminds the people to imitate God's holiness (1 Peter 1:15) in a way that echo's Jesus' command in Matthew 5:48.

When we've trusted Christ and have His righteousness (Romans 3:22); identity (Romans 6:15, Galatians 2:20) and Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We don't need to add anything else. Instead, we should repent of the things we've done in our own effort, with our own resources, on our own time, for our own benefit, and spend our time yielding to the Spirit instead. That's the path of perfection.