Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
This is the Savior’s admonition to us. It’s a rather difficult accomplishment. In fact, it’s actually quite impossible, and naturally Jesus Christ was well aware of this fact. So why did He tell us to be perfect if we simply cannot do so?
Well, there are two basic reasons. One, because it is possible, and two, because we might as well try anyway.
1. In this life, we will never be perfect as God is perfect, but we can be perfect in our own state. James E. Talmage, in his book Jesus the Christ, once used an analogy with college students. A freshman or sophomore may be perfect as freshmen or sophomores. They may get a 4.0 and do everything they can to be perfect in their class, but they still can’t enjoy some of the benefits of an upperclassman until they progress to the next level.
The same goes for us. We can be perfect in certain aspects of our lives. We can be perfect at always attending church every Sunday. We can be perfect at reading our scriptures or praying each day. In these small things, perfection isn’t as far from reality as we think.
2. We might as well try. We’ll never be a perfect person overall, and God understands that. But He knows our potential and what we are capable of, and He knows if we’re trying our hardest or not. Failure is okay. God understands that it’s going to happen, but that doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can.
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. (Mosiah 4:27)
We each have our own level of strength, and God does not ask us to exceed that level. That would make Him unfair! And He most definitely is a fair God.
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
So in this life we do our best and live up to our individual potential. Jesus Christ will cover the rest, but only if we do our part as well. In this way we can be on the path to perfection.