Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
I have recently been struck by the righteousness Jesus requires to enter the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, especially as expounded in the Sermon on the Mount. It is a righteousness in terms of a changed life, no less. And it is a righteousness lived out in community before the world, indeed as a witness to the world.
Of course it is not our own righteousness in the sense that it comes from ourselves. But it becomes our own righteousness as a gift from God, in following Christ. Not that we are ever righteous in ourselves, our righteousness is always and forever in Christ. But it is a righteousness in terms of life lived. And specifically from the passage quoted above, in obeying Jesus’ commands.
We need to spend time, considerable time in the Sermon on the Mount. Prayerfully meditating on it. It is an eye opener, but not in a comfortable way. And yet in the very way we need, in a way which can get us on track in God’s will in Jesus, perhaps better put: going and growing in that direction. It is in terms of obedience to Jesus’ commands. Of course we are not looking at sinless perfection here. But neither are we looking at excuses why we can’t keep Jesus’ commands. The Sermon on the Mount is not given so that we find out how sinful we are (though on one level, it is), so that we simply come to Christ for forgiveness of sin with no intent to obey it. It is not something out of our league, in Christ. It is part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Christ, how we as his followers are to live in this world, indeed, how we are to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.
And so let’s take a good, prolonged look at the sermon (not necessarily on this blog, I’m referring to us individually and together). As we seek to be Jesus’ followers together in and for the world.