REPENTANCE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2016

(Part 23)

REPENTANCE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

February 19, 2016

Today’s readings:

Ezekiel 18:21-28

Psalm 130:1-8

Matthew 5:20-26

We are a sinful people and we rightly should be under condemnation for our transgressions. This is simply our deplorable situation over which we by ourselves are helpless to rectify. “If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand?” (Ps 130:3). What then is our way out? It is simply the mercy of God. It is to that mercy that we need to appeal. “Our of the depths I call to you, Lord; Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Ps 130:1-2).

Now here is the good news: God is rich in mercy! God desires to forgive us our sins and be reconciled to Him. “But with you is forgiveness” (Ps 130:4a). Mercy is at the very heart of God. It is what He provides in order that we might be brought back from death of sin to life in Him. “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked–oracle of the Lord God? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live?” (Ez 18:23).

God is merciful, and we in turn respond to such mercy, through repentance. Mercy is an invitation to repentance. It is when we turn away from sin that we experience the mercy of God. “But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die!” (Ez 18:21).

Here we see that mercy does not preclude justice, that is, there is a need for us to do what is right. Mercy does not condone sin. Mercy does not leave a person in his sin. Mercy is not about being politically correct in just accepting the sinner without speaking to him of his sin. Mercy is freely given by God, but we need to respond to such mercy. “None of the crimes he has committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the justice he has shown.” (Ez 18:22). Mercy and justice go together. Mercy is all about repentance, righteousness and justice. “But if the wicked turn from the wickedness they did and do what is right and just, they save their lives” (Ez 18:27).

Now as God is merciful, we too must be merciful to those who wrong us. We are not justified in being unrighteously angry or being insulting or maligning to those who offend us. “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Mt 5:22). As God’s mercy is all about enabling us to be reconciled with Him, we too should look to being reconciled with those who are God’s children. “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt 5:23-24).

Mercy is such a wonderful virtue. It brings forth peace, unity and love. It is not easy for us mortals, to be merciful as God is merciful. But this is what God requires. This is a manifestation of His great love for us, that He desires that we soar to the heights of righteousness and perfection. Mercy is His benchmark for heaven. “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20).

We praise and thank God for His great mercy. In His mercy is our hope of redemption. “Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption, and he will redeem Israel from all its sins.” (Ps 130:7-8).

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