In Chapter Five of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus gives us the Beatitudes, and he outlines six areas ion which our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus concluded that summary of that ideal Christian life by saying, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
At least, our English translation has Jesus concluding by saying, “Be perfect.” In Matthew’s original Greek account of what Jesus said it is a little different. What Matthew quoted Jesus as saying was, “Be teleios.” That is a word meaning complete, or well rounded.
If we take Jesus as telling us to be perfect it could set us on a course of trying to be models of perfection. It could schedule us for a set of spiritual gymnastics to make us more and more admirable.
If we take Jesus as telling us to be well rounded it would set us on a course of always striving to treat others in accord with the Beatitudes, of avoiding judging others, avoiding mistreating others or being vengeful.
Cardinal Joseph Bernadine of Chicago had his own way of expressing what Jesus recommends for us. At is crucifixion the tunic Jesus handed over to those soldiers was a seamless garment. The Cardinal interpreted that as meaning that our loving attitude towards all should not just be in feeding the hungry or freeing prisoners, but it should have us practicing all the works of mercy. As Jesus put it, “You must be well-rounded, as hour heavenly Father is well rounded.