In geometry, “asymptote” refers to a line and a curve that get closer and closer together but never actually touch. If you really want to impress your friends and family, graph the equation y=2x. The asymptote is x=0. When you crunch the numbers, when x is negative and gets bigger and bigger (x=-1, -2, -3, -4, etc.), y gets smaller and smaller, but never reaches 0. But enough of the geekiness!

I want you to think about a Christian’s character in relationship to God. I would suggest that it resembles an asymptote. God is the absolute standard of everything we should be. God is love. God is holy. God is righteous. God is patient. God is merciful. As God is, we should strive to be. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). Thus…

  • God is love, and I must become more and more like God in my love.
  • God is holy, and I must become more and more like God in my holiness.
  • God is righteous, and I must become more and more like God in my righteousness.
  • God is patient, and I must become more and more like God in my patience.
  • God is merciful, and I must become more and more like God in my mercy.

We are to grow more and more Godlike in our character, but in this life, we’ll never fully reach his perfection. We’ll grow and grow, but never completely reach our full potential. In other words, God’s perfection and our growth form a moral and spiritual asymptote. 

Obviously, that’s easier said than done!

However, we should be encouraged by the fact that Jesus still expected it of his followers. I don’t think Jesus’ point in Matthew 5.48 is that we will, or even can, become morally flawless people. I think he was stating it to put before us an ideal that keeps us perpetually moving in a godward direction. 

I think the apostle Paul understood this concept when he said, “Not that I have already obtained it [the resurrection from the dead] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid 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. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Philippians 3.12-16).

Paul said to press on. To keep getting closer and closer to the prize. To get closer and closer to the reality of heaven. Paul was saying to keep our eyes on the goal, keep our eyes on the standard, but at the same time worry less about the arrival, and more about getting there.