The Trouble With Being ‘A Self-Righteous Bastard’

Dave Andrews


I have often been called a ‘self-righteous bastard’. But the term was first specifically directed at me by my brother-in-law, Michael Bellas. Let me tell you the situation in which he said this to me, for the context in which he uttered the words, says it all.

Ever since I can remember I have been desperate to be ‘righteous’, but have been painfully aware of my ‘unrighteousness’. One day, in my late teens or early twenties, (I don’t remember exactly when) I decided to lock myself in an empty house, to fast and pray for a month, vowing not to come out of the house again until all my thoughts and all my feelings and all my actions were in total alignment with God’s will for my life.

I fasted and I prayed. And I fasted and I prayed some more. For thirty days and thirty nights. When I emerged from my suburban hermitage I noticed I had definitely become more intense, more intent, more focused, and more committed than ever before; but unfortunately, I had also become more self-conscious about my hard-won, seriously- improved, superior virtuousness. When I met Mike, he saw it straightaway, and called it for what it was. My very best efforts to become a truly, totally, completely ‘righteous man’ had only resulted in my becoming what he now labeled ‘a self-righteous bastard!’ [i]


The Delights Of Righteousness

As I said I have always aspired to be ‘righteous’. I was brought up by my pastor-father to believe that God was dikaios’. (My father used to like quoting the Greek and then translating it into English. I guess it showed respect for the text. It also earned him respect from the congregation who couldn’t access the original text for themselves.) Anyway, according to my dad, to say God is dikaios’, is to say God is ‘righteous’, and to say God is ‘righteous’ means God is essentially good, and fair, and reasonable and just – always committed to ‘doing the right thing by everybody’. And, my dad would say, that as we are ‘made in the image of God’, we are all also expected to be good, and fair, and reasonable and just – committed to ‘doing the right thing by everybody’ ourselves.

My dad preached that it was possible for us to be ‘righteous’ because God’s endlessly relentless prevenient and proactive grace was more than enough to empower us to be good, and fair, and reasonable and just, regardless of how many mistakes we made. We were created good (Gen.1:31) to be good (Matt.5:48) and to do good (Matt.6:33). God’s guidelines for our behavior are ‘not burdensome’ (1Jn.5:3) for his ‘yoke is easy’ and his ‘burden is light’ (Matt.11:29). God is very clear about this. He says ‘what I am commanding you is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so you may obey it.’ (Deut.30:11-14).

My dad would say God gives his people a choice with life and death consequences. If we practice righteousness, it will result in prosperity and salvation. If we practice unrighteousness, it will result in tragedy and destruction. He says: ‘I have set before you life and death… Now choose life, so you and your children may live!’ (Deut.30:15-19).[ii]

There are many great figures of righteousness in the Old Testament.[iii] But the one who inspired my growing imagination was Joseph, the kid with ‘his coat of many colours’ who was sold into slavery by his family, but who rose to become vice-regent in Egypt, ‘doing the right thing by everybody’, even by those who betrayed him along the way.[iv] Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel says, that as far as the Jews are concerned, ‘Abraham was obedient; Isaac was brave; Jacob was faithful; but only Joseph was just.’ He says that Joseph, and Joseph alone, ‘among all our ancestors’, is called a ‘Tzaddik’, a ‘Just Person’, an ‘Example of Righteousness’. ‘He assumed his destiny and tried to give it meaning from within. He lived his eternal life in the here and now, demonstrating that it is possible for a slave to be a prince, for the dreamer to link the past to the future, and for the victor to open himself to the supreme passion that is love.’ Thus he ‘transformed exile into a kingdom, misery into splendour, and humiliation into mercy.’[v]

As for those identifying more with the New Testament than the Old Testament, claiming ‘not to live under the law, but under grace’, Paul asks the question: ‘Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?’ His own resolute answer to the question comes down to us through the centuries, as clearly as ever, crying – ‘Never! Your body should be an instrument of righteousness,'(Rom.6:13,15) Peter fully affirmed this, by saying, -Christ ‘bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.’(1Pet.2:24) ‘For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’ (Eph.2:10)

Being brought up as a Christian its not surprising that I was introduced to Jesus at a very young age. There’s a whole lot I used to believe as a Christian – that I used to talk about day and night – that I just don’t talk about any more. I couldn’t care less about it. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether it’s true, or not. But there is one thing, among the many things I used to believe, that I still believe – and still talk about – as passionately now as ever before – and that is the enchanting example of Jesus. Jesus is the ‘sine qua non’ of my life, the ‘bit without which’ I could not live the way that I live.

As a toddler I related to Jesus as a ‘relative’. My parents were pious people. My father was a pastor, and my mother was ‘in the ministry’ too. We were a close family, and my parents talked to us about Jesus as if he were a member of the family. I don’t recall seeing Jesus at our home. But dad and mum told us all about him. Each night before we went to sleep they’d read us a story about him, and show us pictures of him from an old storybook. I can still remember those pictures of Jesus even now. There was one of him carrying a lamb he’d found on his shoulders. And another of him sitting with some kids – which was my favourite – because I thought the kid on his knee looked a lot like me! 

As a child I related to Jesus as a ‘friend’. My parents migrated from England to Australia when I was eight years old. I was uprooted from the only place I knew. And separated from all the relatives whom I loved – with the exception of Jesus. Coming over on the boat, someone played ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ when we crossed the equator. But the antipodes proved to be anything but the magical Land of Oz for me. It was uncool to wear shoes to school. Trying to run around the playground in the midday sun – on blistering-hot rock-hard bitumen – in my little, pink, soft, bare feet – was torture. What made matters worse, was that at that time in Australia, it was a crime to have a posh English accent and I was beaten unmercifully for being a ‘smartmouthed pommie’. Often I felt that Jesus was the only friend that I had in the world.

As an adolescent I related to Jesus as a ‘hero’. When I read the gospels, I saw Jesus in a whole new light. He struck me as a man’s man. He said what he meant and meant what he said. He believed in love and justice and stood up bravely for his beliefs. So Jesus became my role model. And I took every chance I could to ‘be like Jesus’ and ‘do a Jesus’. There was a little kid in our neighbourhood that everybody thought was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. All the kids used to pick on him; but there was one big kid in particular that used pick on him a lot. ‘What would Jesus do?’ I asked myself. ‘He’d lay his body on the line to stop the poor bugger from being bullied.’ I told myself. So I vowed, next time I saw him being attacked, I’d intervene. As it turned out, when I did step in, I got beaten to a pulp and had to be rushed off to hospital. But my bruises only served to strengthen my admiration for the Man who laid down his life for his friends. 

As an adult I have related to Jesus as my ‘guru’. I went to university in the ’60s, when revolution was all the rage. I agreed with Marx’s analysis of society. But thought the solutions to problems Christ proposed were far more radical than Marx. In the 70’s I went to India, along with the rest of my generation. I studied Krishna, Moses, Buddha, and Mohammed. Much of what they said was the truth. But to me, Christ was the truth of which they spoke. So I have spent most of my life setting up, intentional, multi-cultural, inter-religious communities based on the uniquely radical, outrageously inclusive, nonviolent principles of the righteous Rabbi from Nazareth. At present, my family and I are part of an inner city network called the Waiters Union, committed to developing a discipleship community with disadvantaged people in our hometown.

In spite of the difficulties I’ve faced along the way, it has been a delight for me to seek to live a life of life-affirming, life-fulfilling, life-giving righteousness with Jesus as my guide. [vi]

Unfortunately it has not always been as delightful for many of the people around me.


The Dangers Of Self-Righteousness

Jesus encouraged people to be ‘righteous’. (Matt.5.6) In fact, he consistently challenged ordinary people to be ‘more righteous’ than the Pharisees – the ‘most righteous’ people of his time. (Matt.5.20) He said that the problem with the Pharisees was that they ‘clean the outside of the cup but inside (they) are full of wickedness’. (Luke 11.39) He wanted people to be ‘pure – or clean – in heart’. (Matt.5.8)

The word Jesus used for ‘pure – or clean – in heart’ is recorded as ‘katharos’; a word that was used to describe ‘winnowed’ wheat and ‘unadulterated’ wine; a word suggesting motives that were not mixed. Jesus said that it was essential for anyone who really wanted to be righteous ‘to clean the inside of the cup’ thoroughly. (Matt.23.26) ‘Be perfect,’ he said, ‘as your heavenly Father is perfect’. (Matt.5.48) [vii]

Now, you need to know that, for better or worse, I am a strong, resourceful, assertive person. My ancestors are Scots on both sides of my family and I’m told our Scottish family motto is ‘mak sikkar!’ or ‘make sure!’ So when I hear the challenge of Jesus to be ‘perfect’ – to be ‘more righteous’ than the ‘most righteous’ I know – I am inclined to martial my determination in all its never-say-die bloody-mindedness to ‘mak sikkar’ or ‘make sure’ I ‘winnow’ the ‘wheat’ – separating the ‘wheat’ from the ‘tares’ in my world.

Which means, at my best, I can decide to lock myself in an empty house, to fast and pray for a month, vowing not to come out until have sorted through all my thoughts and all my feelings to make sure that my actions will be in alignment with God’s will for my life. But, it also means, at my worst, I can emerge from my suburban hermitage a more intense, more intent, more focused, more committed, ‘self-righteous bastard’ ready to rip into unsuspecting people I encounter about their ‘inexcusable unrighteousness’.

Through primary and secondary school I used to ‘witness’ to other kids in my class. I gave Tony Salecich, who later became the Chaplain of Brisbane State High School his first bible when he was at school with me. But I remember running into one kid who used to be in my class years later when I was ‘witnessing’ in King George Square one Saturday night and he said something to me, that fills me with shame, that I will never forget. He said ‘Dave, don’t give me this shit. You’re the reason I don’t believe in any of this bullshit.’ When I asked him why, he said, ‘You talk about the “good news”. But you are “bad news”, man. You only ever tried to convert kids like me. You never really cared for me!’

While I was studying at university I used to live at the Baptist Theological College and used to preach at Baptist Churches round town with a bunch of up-and-coming zealous preachers from the Baptist College. It would be fair enough to say that any dispassionate observer would probably have given us 100% for sincerity, but 0.0% for sensitivity.

Before people got to know us well, I went to a church where I was booked to preach a week before they expected me. I dressed in dirty, daggy, ragged clothes like a tramp, turned up on the doorstep and waited to observe what kind of welcome I got. No one would talk to me. When I begged for help the most anyone would do for me was refer me to a pastor for welfare, who wasn’t there at the time, but would be back soon. I was disgusted. So when I came back next week, suitably attired for the occasion, I stood in the pulpit and, without any sense of irony, berated them for their disgraceful lack of grace.

Another time a friend and I were booked to preach at a church. As was our custom, we both prayed during the week leading up to the church service with the expectation that, whoever received a ‘word from the Lord’, would be the designated preacher. But neither of us got a ‘word’ during the week. We didn’t even get a ‘word’ on the day itself, either driving in the car on the way to church, or during the service, leading up to the sermon. So when it came time to preach we got up, filled with self-righteous indignation, and told the stunned congregation we had waited ‘on the Lord’ for a ‘word’ and there wasn’t one. This was not because we had been negligent in our preparation, but most probably because they hadn’t listened to a previous ‘word’ the Lord had given them. We told them straight that when they obeyed the word they had already been given, the Lord would no doubt give them another word. But until then it would be a waste of breath. Having said that we sat down. And, as you can imagine, at the end of the service, all hell broke loose.

Having given up on ‘ministry’ in Australia I decided to go as a ‘missionary’ to India. I had studied apologetics. I believed, as Francis Schaeffer, the greatest evangelical apologist at the time, once famously claimed, that, Christianity was the ‘true truth’. Thus my task as a ‘missionary’ was to witness to the ‘true truth’ claims of my religion, Christianity, over against the ‘false truth’ claims (‘lies’) of other religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The presuppositional apologetic approach that I was taught to take in relating to other religions was to expose the unreasonable presuppositions upon which other religions were based, (eg the Nondualism of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism), unpack the unrealistic implications those unreasonable presuppositions led to, (eg. without duality there could be no morality, no right as opposed to a wrong), then present Christianity (or Schaeffer’s version of Dualist Neo-Calvinism) as the only reasonable, realistic way to righteousness.

You can imagine how dangerous this technique was in the hands of someone as self-righteous as me. I wielded this tool like a sword. I thought of it as ‘the sword of the spirit’ – ‘sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the(ir) heart’.(Heb.4:12) For someone as combative, dominating and intimidating as me, the conflict between competing truth claims, was a creedal zero-sum game, a win-lose ‘clash of civilisations’. I won a lot of arguments, but did a lot of damage – needlessly, heedlessly, publically shaming many beautiful sensitive souls nurtured in the bosom of honour-shame cultures


The Need For Me To Constantly Confront My Own Self-Righteousness

One day I was reflecting on my work and I heard a quiet voice within me say: ‘Don’t do this Dave. You’re hurting people you say you want to help. You need to stop confronting others with their contradictions and start to confront your self with your own. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, while the plank is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye”.’ (Matt.7:3-5)

In my quest for righteousness I need to constantly confront my own self-righteousness.

These days instead of focusing on righteousness in my self, I focus on righteousness in others, for others and with others. I fix ‘on what is true and pure and right’ in others, and act on ‘what is good, holy, healthy, and helpful’ for others and with others. (Phil.4:8) I seek to validate, celebrate, participate in and collaborate with the righteousness of the Spirit manifest in ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, tolerance and self-control’ found in inspirational people of all religions … and none. (Gal.5:22)


Sources, Resources,

[i] Archetypal examples of ‘self-righteousness’ in scripture include the Pharisee (Lk.18:9-11) and the Elder Brother (Lk.15:11-32).

[ii] The prophet Ezekiel says: ‘suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right… He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ (Ezek.18:5-9)

But ‘suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things though the father has done none of them: He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge… He does detestable things. He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not!’ (Ezek.18:10-14).

Then again ‘suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: “He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live… The son will not share the guilt of the father… Since the son has done what is just and right… The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him….’’ ’(Ezek.18:14-19) Note that there is no suggestion here of some kind of ‘original sin’ that is transmitted from one generation to the next that diminishes people’s capacity to choose righteousness. In point of fact that spurious excuse is specifically, immediately and directly questioned when Ezekiel says:. ‘The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: `The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As surely as I live”, declares the Sovereign Lord, “you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel”. ‘ (Ezek.18:1-3)

[iii] There are many ‘righteous’ people in the Bible – from Noah and Enoch to Zacharias and Elisabeth, Simeon and Cornelius. One of the great figures of righteousness in the Old Testament was Job. Job answered his critics, who questioned his righteousness, by testifying powerfully, as follows, in a magnificent speech in defense of his personal/political integrity:

‘I wore my righteousness like a garment;

justice was my robe and my turban.

I was eyes to the blind,

and feet to the lame was I.

I was a father to the poor;

the complaint of the stranger I pursued,

And I broke the jaws of the wicked man;

from his teeth I forced the prey.

For I rescued the poor who cried out for help,

the orphans, and the unassisted;

The blessing of those in extremity came upon me,

and the heart of the widow I made joyful.’ (Job 29:13-17)

[iv] Many of us would be familiar with the story of Joseph. But for those who don’t know it, it goes something like this…

‘Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob. To the aged father he was the dearest child. Joseph helped his brothers tend the flocks in the fields. One day, when he was seventeen, he turned up in a “coat of many colours” which was a gift from his father.

The older brothers were jealous. And their jealousy became hatred when he told them of the dreams

he had, that he would be a great ruler. One day they got so sick of him that they took him, and sold him to some passing traders as a slave. The brothers then killed a goat, tore the coat, stained it with goat’s blood, and brought it to Jacob, saying Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

‘Meanwhile Joseph was carried off to Egypt. Potiphar, the captain of the palace guard, bought him. Joseph served his master so well that he was made the overseer of Potiphar’s household. But Joseph offended Potiphar’s wicked wife, because he would not return her illicit love for him. Potiphar’s wife had Joseph thrown into prison. But Joseph won the jailer’s confidence, and was placed in charge of all the prisoners in the prison.

‘Pharaoh’s butler had offended his lord, so he was put into prison with Joseph too. One night the butler had a strange dream. And Joseph interpreted the dream for him. Two years later, when the Pharaoh had a dream, the butler, now

restored to the Pharaoh’s favour, remembered Joseph’s interpretation of his dream, and he recommended Joseph to the Pharaoh. Joseph told the Pharaoh that his dreams indicated that there would be seven years of good harvests followed by seven years of bad harvests, and that he needed to appoint an administrator to collect food in preparation for the coming famine. The Pharaoh appointed Joseph to the position.

‘During the famine, when his brothers came to Egypt to get some food supplies, they came face to face with Joseph, but they failed to recognise the Prime Minister. So Joseph made himself known to them. They were terrified, fearing his revenge. But Joseph gladly forgave them. And invited them to live with him. So the brothers went home, and brought their father and their families to live with Joseph in Egypt.’

Unger, M. ‘Joseph’, The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol.11 (Chicago: Field Enterprises, 1974)133

[v] Wiesel, E. Messengers of God, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977) 155, 156, 182

[vi] How can we practice the righteousness of Jesus? Most scholars suggest that the answer to this question is ‘discipleship’ – practicing the righteousness of Jesus with Jesus – following carefully in the footsteps of the master and incorporating his virtues into our character. For it is in imitating Jesus all of us can learn how to embody the virtues he incarnated by heart.

Some scholars, like Dallas Willard, believe what Jesus was saying in the Sermon On The Mount was that, in order to embody his virtues, his disciples needed to be able to distinguish between the higher ideals he advocated and the lower ideals his society advocated, and be committed to practice the higher ideals he advocated, over and above the lower ideals of society. Thus, for example, Willard says Jesus calls his disciples to practice the ideal of ‘no anger’ over and above the ideal of ‘no murder’[vi]


The lower ideal of Jewish tradition

The higher ideal of Jesus’ mission
“You have heard it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 5.21




“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother (or sister) will be subject to judgment. (Eg.) Anyone who says to his brother (or sister), `Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” 5.22


The trouble with this perspective is that the higher ideal advocated is a completely unrealistic ideal. In fact, the higher ideal of ‘no anger’ is an unbiblical ideal, precisely because it is unrealistic ideal. None of our examples of perfection in the bible – not even Jesus – practiced ‘no anger’ as a principle. Not only did Jesus get angry (Matt. 21.12-17), he occasionally called opponents ‘fools’. (Matt. 23. 17)


Christian scholars, like Glen Stassen and David Gushee, believe that, while saintly Christian scholars like Dallas Willard, are right in asserting what Jesus was saying in the Sermon On The Mount was that his disciples needed to be able to distinguish between the ‘higher ideals’ he advocated and the ‘lower ideals’ his society advocated, they have been wrong in distinguishing those ‘higher ideals’ themselves. They have identified as ‘higher ideals’ unrealistic ideals, which Jesus never advocated. And those of us who’ve tried to practice these unrealistic ideals ‘as gospel’ have experienced profound disappointment.


If we read the Sermon On the Mount circumspectly, we will notice when Jesus contrasts society’s ideals with his ideals, he doesn’t simply state society’s ‘lower ideals’ first and his ‘higher ideals’ second. He states society’s ‘ideals’ first; the vicious cycles of unresolved problems, which society’s ‘lower ideals’ do not deal with, second; and his ‘higher ideals’, which alone can solve the unresolved problems of the world, third. Jesus’ ‘higher ideals’ – which are actually very realistic but incredibly creative transformative righteous initiatives – are to be found, not in his second, but his third set of statements.





Traditional Norms


Vicious Cycles Transforming Initiatives

“You have heard it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 5.21








The Old Imperatives


“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother (or sister) will be subject to judgment. Anyone who says to his brother (or sister), `Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” 5.22




Descriptive / Not Prescriptive


“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother (or sister) has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother (or sister); then come and offer your gift. Settle matters (or make friends) quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” 5.23-26

The New Imperatives             [vi]


It is clear that the emphasis here is not on the second point but on the third point. The imperative we are to take to heart is not an unrealistic ‘no anger’ policy, but a creative response to conflict resolution.


If we are to be practice the righteousness Jesus advocated in the Sermon On The Mount, we need to reflect on the first sets of points he makes, consider the second set of points he makes, but always act on the third set of points Jesus makes.



Traditional Norms



Vicious Cycles


Transforming Initiatives


1. Don’t kill


But being so angry you’re

abusive can be brutal too


Go, be reconciled



2. Don’t commit adultery



But a slow-burn lust is

adultery in your heart


So remove yourself from       the   temptation (Mk 9.43-50)


3. You can divorce



But divorce usually

involves infidelity


(Be reconciled 1.Cor.7-11)


4. Don’t swear falsely



But taking any oath sugg-

ests making false claims


   Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’      

   and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.


5. Take an eye for an eye,

and a tooth for a tooth.


But retaliating entails

returning evil for evil


Turn the other cheek,


6. Love your neighbour

and hate your enemy


But hating enemies

doesn’t deal with enmity


Love your enemies,

Bless those who curse you


7. Contributing publicly


Is parading your charity

not practicing generosity


Give without advertising it


8. Fasting publicly


Is parading your piety

not practicing sincerity


Fast without publicizing it


9. Praying publicly


Is parading your religiosity

not practicing spirituality


Pray authentically in secret


10 Lots of prayer


Is simply repeating a lot

of empty sacred phrases


Make the Lord’s Prayer             the prayer of your heart


11 Pile up treasures on earth

(Luke 12.16-31)


But thieves break in and steal



Store up treasures in heaven


12 No one can serve

two different masters


Its impossible to serve God and money at the same time


So seek the Kingdom of God   and don’t worry about money


13 Do not judge

lest you be judged


If you judge you’ll be judged by the very same standards



So take the plank out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your neighbour’s


14 Do not throw your

pearls before swine


They will trample on them and then tear you to pieces


The only one you can totally entrust yourself to – is God! [vi]


Jesus does not call us to aspire to achieve some kind of superhuman heroic perfection, but to humbly practice the idealistic-but-realistic righteous transforming initiatives that he set out for us in the Sermon On The Mount.


[vii] Faced with Jesus’ expectation of perfection, the obvious question followers of Jesus are forced to answer is: how in the world does Jesus expect us to be able to clean up our act to such an extent that we can be ‘perfect’? I think part of the answer to the question is in being clear about what Jesus meant by being ‘perfect’. The adjective used here is ‘telios – which is derived from the noun ‘telos’ – which means ‘purpose’. Thus it is clear what Jesus is expecting in terms of ‘perfection’ is that we ‘realize our potential’. We are created ‘in the image of God’ to reflect the love of God in our lives as realistically as we can. So, as far as Jesus is concerned, to be ‘perfect’ we need to let the light of the love of God so shine in our lives, people will see our ‘good deeds’ and ‘glorify our Father in heaven’. (Matt.5:16) ‘The righteous will shine like the sun!’ (Matt.13:43)

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