46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:46-48
I find that there are a lot of people that get confused by the things that Jesus said. The last verse of Matthew 5 is one of those that can really throw people for a loop and many have made excuses or reasoned away the statement. Some claim Jesus is telling us to do something that is impossible as a way of emphasizing our helplessness. While that may give us an out for our failures, I think the surrounding context suggests another understanding.
Jesus is telling His disciples (that includes us) to love enemies and drives the point home by saying that even “bad people” love their friends and others who love them back. He says that loving our enemies is the kind of behavior that mimics the behavior of our Father in Heaven. Scripture proves this to be true and we know it to be true, because even while we were enemies of God, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). So Jesus is teaching us that we need to take our cues on how to think, speak and act from God’s instruction and example. Please make careful note of the fact that Jesus isn’t teaching those who are not believers to act this way, this is directed at those who are “sons of God.”(Matthew 5:45) Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect then, means to pattern our lives by the example set before us in Jesus, who acted like His Father in every way. We won’t be “perfect” at it, but it gives us something to “grow” by.