I recently watched a movie (again) called “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington, who is one of my favorite actors. The story is about a high school football team, racial integration, and the struggles between the players and the coaches who have totally different viewpoints on how the players should be trained. I definitely recommend the film.
At any rate, there is a scene in the movie that brought to my memory something the Lord Jesus said once and how Christians have responded to and received that one statement. At one point in the movie Denzel (head coach) tells the team that he absolutely demands perfection. At one point, he will expect the team to be perfect. Sound familiar?
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is part of the sermon on the mount and I don’t know about you but for years I had a problem with this portion of scripture. I mean, c’mon man! How could God actually demand perfection from me? I mean Jesus, in this so-called “sermon”, goes through the law and then adds to it. At one point He keeps saying that “you have heard it said” referring to Moses and the law.
You have heard it said:
‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’
‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’
‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’
‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
But after every one of these quotes from the law He adds to it by saying:
“But I say to you…” Things like just getting angry and committing murder. Just looking at a women and committing adultery. Going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and loving and praying for your enemies. You want to say, “Lord, please stop. I can’t take it anymore!”
How could he ever expect me to live up to such a high standard?
The simple answer is that He doesn’t. And the only way this is even made possible is by a two-fold “secret” that is the essence of the new covenant. It is called a mystery by Paul because it requires revelation from God to understand it. And believe it or not, that mystery is revealed in the movie Remember the Titans. It takes place during a critical part of the movie when the team is on the verge of winning or losing the championship.
Here is the quote from the film:
COACH: “We’re in a fight. You boys are doing all that you can do. Anybody can see that, win or lose. We’re gonna walk out of this stadium tonight with our heads held high. Do your best, that’s all anybody can ask for.”
PLAYER: “No, it ain’t, Coach. With all due respect, you demanded more of us. You demanded perfection. Now, I ain’t saying that I’m perfect, ’cause I’m not, and I ain’t gonna ever be. None of us are. But we have won every single game we have played till now. So this team is perfect. We stepped out on that field that way tonight. And, if it’s all the same to you, Coach, that’s how we want to leave it.”
Did you get that? The individual players could not be perfect, but the team was perfect! Wow! What an amazing unveiling of the ageless purpose of God! Could that be what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 5 when He told US to be perfect? To see the meaning of a passage you must look at the context. What is the context of the “sermon on the mount”? The first part of Matthew 5 reveals to us the context:
He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This whole passage is within the context of a “kingdom”. Jesus is describing to us what His kingdom, His nation, His corporate body would be like. It is a description of the Christ, the full Christ, the whole Christ; Head & Body, Vine & Branches, Bridegroom & Bride, Foundation & living stones. This is the corporate Man that God has always wanted (see Gen. 1:26-28). He (or She) will be perfect. She (or He) will do all of these things out of the nature and life within her.
But how is this possible? This brings us to the second part of this mystery. “Christ in you (plural) the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Because Christ now lives within us individually and corporately He can actually live His life in and through us.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Now, by faith, we can live by His life and nature together to fulfill God’s dream of a creation, a corporate entity, that fully expresses the life, nature, and character of God Himself!
This is the only way that this can happen. We, the Church, are perfect (mature and complete) as we live out His life within us together!
You may want to check out Milt’s new ebook, CHRIST IN 3-D: