It would be so much easier if we could define our own righteousness. If we could choose who to reach out to and who to ignore, life would be good, wouldn’t it? If we could hold grudges against some people and only have to forgive some people, we would easily consider ourselves justified. But the Christian life of discipleship doesn’t work that way.
That’s where the Pharisees went wrong. They were able to define their six hundred and something laws in such a way that if you just kept your eye on those, you were okay. Empty legalism replaced true righteousness and lip service replaced true worship. Jesus wasn’t having any of that. Our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees or we have no part in the Kingdom of heaven. It’s that simple.
So when we bear grudges, we murder. When we label people and then write them off, we are liable to judgment. Because justice and righteousness in the Kingdom of God isn’t about looking squeaky clean, it’s about being clean inside and out, changing our attitudes, changing our hearts, renewing our lives.
If Lent purifies us in this way, we can truly pray with the Psalmist, “with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption.”