There is an interesting situation faced by God's people when the prophet Joel is relating the word of the Lord God. Joel has noted the famine and pestilence that has plagued the people. Eventually we realize that they're in such dire straits that they don't even have food or drink left to make ritual offerings. Joel sees this as a perfect occasion to dispense with ritual and try good 'ol sincerity and integrity in their confession and contrition. It may pay off for them.
An intriguing question came up in the Sunday School class last week that came to ask what exactly is sin in God's eyes? Is it thee same as what we commonly understand as sinful, or is it focused on other criteria? Upon close examination, we may discover that our understandings of sin are formed by traditional understandings, social-cultural norms, and even our own personal feelings, either feeling badly about things we do, or things that others do. In all these cases, no one is paying attention to what God regards as sinful (or righteous).
We get a taste for that as the good "church-going" and devout Pharisee enters the Temple along with a despised tax collector in Jesus' parable. The Pharisees pride in his spiritual righteousness is fully contrasted with the abject humility and despair of the tax collector over his complete sinfulness. Yet Jesus makes it clear that it's the tax collector who gets justified - has his relationship restored by grace - with God. Whaaat?
Check out the sermon video below to hear a couple of questions about your righteousness (or sinfulness) when placed before God's standards and expectations rather than the ones we commonly imagine. It gets a bit squirmy.