Remember the great “Impersonators?” Like Rich Little? He was everywhere in the 70’s. What about Frank Gorshin? Maybe he is only popular to old Batman fans for playing “The Riddler.” Who does that anymore? Check out Kevin Spacey and Jimmy Fallon playing “Wheel of Impressions.” Watch “Saturday Night Live” and see Alec Baldwin “being” Donald Trump.
I used to do some impressions – of my High School Principal, some teachers in College and Seminary – nobody you’d know. And – nobody you’d laugh at either.
I find myself acting like my father every now and then – same tone of voice, same mannerisms. It’s weird, because I’m adopted. There is no genetic similarity whatsoever. Like when my son acts like me? Same body type, same walk – it’s all genetic! I guess the more I watched my father, the more I became like him.
That’s what Jesus is talking about in today’s scripture. He says “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” but he really means, “imitate God.” Us churchy types may know the New Revised Standard (above), but look at The Message version of Matthew 5:48 – “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Live toward others the way God lives toward you. Imitate God! Easy-peasy, right?
Watch Jesus. First thing he did? He gathered a group that lived together and learned by watching him.
Watch John Wesley. What did he do? Gathered “Classes,” “Bands,” and “Societies” (groups of varying sizes and functions) who learned by living together, watching one another, and holding each other accountable as they tried to be more like Jesus.
For Wesley, perfection was never about being 100% mistake free. It was always something Christians were “going on to;” always attempting, but never quite arriving. We are continually being made perfect in our love of God and each other.
Bishop Scott Jones (in some document on some website, whose source I have lost) says “Christian Perfection” is “being so filled with love of God and love of neighbor that all one’s conscious, intentional actions are motivated by love. This includes concerns for justice for the poor and marginalized. He reminds us of Paul’s words:
Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
ut he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
even death on a cross.
Be like God. Be like Jesus. Just try! That’s all we are asked.