February 9

Matthew 5:17-20

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” vs. 20

Wow! Don’t you just love the outrageous things that Jesus says? Most of us have constructed a Jesus who exudes unconditional love and forgiveness, a Jesus who is so full of grace that he really doesn’t care what we say or do. Unfortunately, that picture of Jesus doesn’t square with what he actually taught. Even though he is known as a friend of sinners, his standards are unbelievably high. The scribes and the Pharisees loved the law and the commandments. They would do anything to avoid breaking one of the hundreds of rules that had been set up to keep the law holy. And Jesus expects his disciples (and us) to be more righteous than them! It’s not that he’s setting up a new legal system for his followers, one based on rigid obedience and swift punishment. That system was already in place! The world didn’t need more commandments. No, he brought something entirely new, a way of life that would be rooted in the love of God and neighbor, and that would produce people of integrity, humility, and gentleness. His followers would be children of light and their eyes would be full of love and not judgment. His way isn’t the easiest way–the demands of love are challenging and often difficult. But it is the way to life, and those who walk it know the peace of God.

Thought for the Day: What qualities do I exude?

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