Target Practice

Published by DonDavidson on

Whenever you start to feel a little self-righteous, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel and see what Jesus says about:

  • Calling someone a “fool” (Matthew 5:22)
  • Lusting after a woman not your wife (or a man not your husband) (Matthew 5:28)
  • Marrying a woman (or a man) who is divorced (Matthew 5:32)
  • Exacting revenge on someone who mistreats you (Matthew 5:39-42)
  • How we should treat our enemies (Matthew 5:44)
  • Making a show of prayer, fasting, or helping the poor (Matthew 6:2-4, 6, and 17-18)
  • Greed, and obsessing about money/possessions (Matthew 6:24-25, 31-34)
  • Judging others (Matthew 7:1-5)
  • How we should treat other people (Matthew 7:12)

If that’s not enough to humble you, read Paul’s lists of do’s and don’t’s in in 2 Corinthians 12:21-22, Romans 1:29-30, Ephesians 4:25-32, 2 Timothy 3:2-5, and Galatians 5:19-24. You are likely to find more than one that is a problem for you.

But then Jesus tells us we are to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Is he kidding? No, not really.

This is target practice. Jesus and Paul are giving us goals to aspire to. They are telling us what we should be aiming at, what a perfect Christian looks like.

Of course, I’m not there yet. But neither is anyone else. Paul tells us as much in Romans 3:23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Greek word translated as “fall short” is husterio, which is an archery term that means “to miss the mark” or “miss the target.” The target is perfection, but all of us miss the target.

The good news, of course, is that our salvation doesn’t depend on us hitting the target. We are not saved because of our righteousness, but because of God’s love, mercy, and grace. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Jesus lived a perfect, sin-free life (Hebrews 4:15), and somehow, in a way I don’t even pretend to fully understand, God treats us as if we had Christ’s righteousness. Paul says it like this in Galatians 3:26-27: “For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

If perfection is our goal, we have as much chance of attaining it in this life as we do of climbing a ladder to the Moon. So what are we to do? Here is Paul’s advice in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Like Paul, we must continue to press on toward the goal. We must keep trying to live God’s way, to be as Christ-like as we possibly can. We must continue striving to “be perfect,” and rely on God’s mercy and grace when we inevitably fall short.

So keep on taking target practice.

You can read more of my writings on this website and in my books. See the links at the top of the page, or you can click on one of these:

My Books

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Christmas Writings


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