“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” vs. 20
Though Matthew is obviously drawing parallels between Moses, the great lawgiver, and Jesus in his introductory chapters, the first words Jesus speaks to the disciples, the beatitudes, are a powerful statement of grace, and not a list of rules. He tells them clearly that they are the light of the world. But he follows up the words of affirmation with a necessary clarification: they should never ever begin to believe that he came to abolish the law! Paul does the same thing later on in his letter to the Romans, letting his readers know that baptism does not give license to do whatever one pleases. Those are important reminders to lovers of grace in every generation. There’s a purpose behind God’s unconditional love and mercy, and that purpose is to transform the world. Grace frees us to be the people God has created and equipped us to be. The divine intention does not mean disregarding laws and doing what we want. Jesus sets the standard by telling his disciples that he expects their righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, the most law-abiding people on the planet! Some of us might consider that kind of talk to be a negation of grace, but it truly isn’t. In reality Jesus’ words point out the incredible life-changing power of grace! Love and forgiveness work together to make different people of us. The law kills, but grace makes us alive!
Thought for the Day: Why is grace more effective than law in changing lives?