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Righteousness in Christ
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
People are always trying to tell themselves that they’re okay, that they are basically good. As long as they are surrounded by other people who are doing worse things than they are, they can feel pretty good about themselves. So then, how are you doing? How righteous are you before God? Are you doing enough—are you righteous enough—to earn your place in the eternal Kingdom of God? We don't want to be like the Pharisees. The Pharisees were hypocrites, right? So long as we please God and are sincere, we should be fine. So long as we avoid becoming narrow-minded like “church people”—like people who think they have everything figured out—we should be safe, right?
We like to pick on the Pharisees and call them names. And why not? They deserve it, don’t they? After all, they were a constant thorn our Lord’s side during His earthly ministry. They were His enemies. But if being righteous comes down to doing those things that make God smile, then we are in big trouble. The Pharisees were far more righteous than you or I will ever be. Many of them were not even that self-absorbed or hypocritical. And Jesus tells us that no one will get into heaven unless he is more righteous than even the most praiseworthy Pharisee. The Pharisees were great at being righteous. They kept the law better than anyone. But not even one of them was righteous enough.
You need to be completely righteous. You need to be sinless before God—sinless in thought, word, and deed, in what you do and what you leave undone. You must love God with all of your being; you must love your neighbor as yourself. And that is an insurmountable problem. Jesus says that those who have had a hateful thought, even if they haven’t acted on it, are guilty of murder. Someone who has an impure thought is as guilty of adultery as someone who is having a tawdry affair. And if you think neither of those apply to you, think about this: During this pandemic, do you love your neighbor by wearing a mask? Or do you love your neighbor by refusing to wear a mask? And which is better way? The righteousness of the sinner is the kind where we believe we are only guilty of those things our neighbors catch us doing. The righteousness of the sinner is the kind where we make our own rules, and those rules change all the time. That isn’t any kind of righteousness at all. We have no righteousness of our own.
This means that we must get our righteousness from somewhere else. The only place where this perfect righteousness can be found is in Jesus. He is the only One who is righteous enough. Therefore, if we want a place in the eternal Kingdom of God, we need His righteousness to get us through the door. And, sure enough, Jesus gives you His perfect righteousness. Of course, that righteousness much better than that of any Pharisee. It is the righteousness of the One who has paid the price for all our Unrighteousness with His own blood. You received that righteousness in the bloody waters of Holy Baptism, where all your sin was washed away and the perfect white robe of our Lord’s righteousness was placed upon you. This righteousness is more than you could ever imagine. How much righteousness does it take to get into heaven? It takes all of Christ’s righteousness. And His righteousness is sufficient for you, for me, and for everyone. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.