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Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In a legal system there is no room for mercy or love. Obey the law and you’re safe. Break the law and you pay the price. And if we have to justify our words, thoughts, and actions then we will always compare ourselves to others to see if we’re doing a good job. We will always be divided. Informed vs. ignorant. Christian vs. Muslim. Liberal vs. conservative. Capitalist vs. socialist. Black vs. white. Right vs. wrong. Cubs vs. Brewers! (Go Cubs!). But who is the one justified before God – The humble sinner, not even pretending to be good or right; man so ashamed and desperately seeking the mercy of God that he cannot even raise his head to pray? The problem with self-justification is that we will never be good enough when we stand before God. Good thing God promises grace, mercy and love. The justification is the cross of Jesus!