In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells His disciples that seeking righteousness with mercy is the core essence of His Kingdom. He further instructs His disciples that they must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees in order to live up to Kingdom standards.

The Pharisees were meticulous rule-followers. But Kingdom righteousness flows from a heart of mercy toward others.

It is anger with a brother that is the root violation of righteousness (social harmony). Murder is the effect. Anger is the cause. Jesus shows this to be true in the way we perceive adultery, taking oaths (making promises), divorce, and our ideas of justice/judging one another.

Righteousness is primarily about our inner perspective (spirit of the law) rather than what we do when we know we are being watched, our outward actions (letter of the law).

Being hyper-focused on the letter of the law (like the Pharisees) misses the deep truth about the way our motivations and perspective shape our attitude, and ultimately our actions toward others.

Jesus wasn’t trying to measure up to His disciples’ expectations. In fact, they were astonished at the authority with which He taught. Jesus was seeking to pull them to a higher plane of living, so they could be blessed (Makarios, fulfilled in life).

If we want to seek the fulfillment Jesus promises by mercifully seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, a good starting point is to shift our self-talk from “What do they think of me” to “How can I pull those around me towards a more fruitful life?”

This is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The law Jesus came to embody and fulfill. A law of love, the inner workings of the heart.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”
– Matthew 5:17-18