The gospel reading today ends with Jesus summing up his great Sermon on the Mount by saying, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We can easily misunderstand what this passage means and leave feeling like Jesus is placing moral demands on us that simply are not possible.
I’ve heard many people compare the moral law to playing the piano. This analogy usually goes something like: the more you follow the moral law the more you internalize it, make it a habit, and then the more free you are to follow it. Much like playing the piano. Someone who has never practiced playing the piano does not have the freedom to actually play it, but the person who has put in the effort to learn and practice gains that freedom.
What this analogy gets correct is that the moral law is not a set of arbitrary rules imposed on us but rather something that offers us greater freedom. However, what this analogy gets wrong truly poisons a Christian understanding of morality.