right·eous·ness

Lord, 

Guide us today. 

Show us your ways. Draw us near to you and your people... all people. Use us in ways that we do not understand. Open our eyes to your kingdom and open our ears to your voice. 

Amen.


right·eous·ness

ˈrīCHəsnəs/

the quality of being morally right or justifiable


But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
— -Jesus (Matthew 9:13)

Righteousness is a word that get’s thrown around alot in the church.

It’s a word associated with pain and with judgement.

It’s a word that is followed by a ton of hypocrisy.

So often the word is accompanied with the idea that righteousness is a lifestyle. That it is something that can be attained by working at it. Like you should live, eat and breathe righteousness.

But it’s the sinners, the unrighteous, that Jesus spent so much time with. He didn’t come to call the righteous… in fact the “righteous” are the ones who hated him the most. Often, the most judgemental people in the world are those considered “righteous”. In their “righteousness” there is no room for anything less. Which means that they push out anything or anyone that doesn’t fit that mold.

It’s when a “righteous” person begins to believe that they have done anything to be “good” that they go wrong. There is no mistake in God’s plan of a kingdom with values directly opposed to the world. Jesus spent a good portion of his time proclaiming a new kingdom and hanging out with sinners. Is it possible that his version of righteousness was not the same as ours?

 

Let’s take a quick detour. If you were to say that a person in the Bible was righteous who would you point to? Ezekiel pointed out a few Noah, Daniel and Job… But who would you say embodied Righteousness? I think we would all agree that Jesus is the perfect idea of that concept. But how did his version of righteousness compare with the today’s version?

Today’s Righteousness stands on the street corner with a bullhorn.

Jesus’ Righteousness embraces the sinner right where they are.

What happens when righteousness embraces sin rather than yell at it from a comfortable distance? And maybe to help better understand the question we should look at the concept of sin. So, what is sin? NT Wright puts it best when he says, “Missing the mark.” What “mark”? Well the” Mark” that has us free from the traps of this world. The traps that tie us up and slow us down. Addiction, Envy, Rage, Division, Idolatry, etc… all of these things cause us to “miss the mark”. So what happens then those things are confronted by righteousness, but more importantly what happens when Righteousness engages in life with those things? More often than not it’s like a giant spotlight is shining directly on them, revealing them for what they are. They are ugly, cancerous things. They keep us from moving forward in life and being what we are meant to be.

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
— Romans 1:17

Righteousness is not a lifestyle, it’s faith. It’s believing. When we make it a lifestyle of being right we miss the interaction with Jesus that is so vital for restoration. It’s in faith that our relationship with Jesus restores us and makes us whole. It’s not by the works of our own hands. The kingdom that Jesus taught about doesn’t operate in the way that our American “by the bootstraps” ideology operates. It’s so much simpler than that. It meets us right where we are “missing the mark” and says, “you deserve better. Here, let’s do this together.” That’s what Righteousness looks like. True righteousness isn’t afraid of getting it’s hands dirty. It’s not afraid of being seen with the wrong crowd. True righteousness isn’t concerned with being seen with the right crowd regularly either… in fact, true righteousness doesn’t see either one of those things. True righteousness just wants to love and grow you to where you are what you were created to be, free.

So True Righteousness is all about freedom. Jesus came. He offered us a glimpse into a kingdom and then he did something more, he brought the kingdom to us. In this kingdom you are free. The chains that have held you back, they are part of this other kingdom that is destined to fall. But the new kingdom, the one that brings righteousness to all of the earth is here and now. Our only “job” is to proclaim that. So if you struggle with the word righteousness maybe setting captives free and releasing the bonds on the oppressed is something a little more up your ally… but it’s all the same. It’s all righteousness.

Righteousness is about a different way of seeing the world. It’s not about yelling from a bullhorn, it’s all about embracing and loving.

Bullhorn Righteousness is more concerned with being seen “preaching the good news” to sinners. Kingdom Righteousness is more concerned with being lost in the crowd and being good news to the sinners. With Bullhorn Righteousness it’s all about ego, “How loud can I be” “How can I show the world they are wrong” “How can I stand out from them.” There’s alot of  self in Bullhorn righteousness.

Kingdom Righteousness becomes about “you”. “How can I help you” “What do you need” “I love you” The subject is different. Bullhorn Righteousness is modeled after the world, where “doing” is the most important thing. But Kingdom Righteousness isn’t concerned with “doing” is concerned with giving and being and presence. And that is exactly what Jesus showed us how to do. How to give to the point of having nothing left to give and still doing it out of love. And that my friends, is what Righteousness is.

Today as you enter the world engage in righteousness. See the world through Jesus. Ask him to enter into those areas of your heart where you are “missing the mark”. To truly walk in Righteousness is to walk in love and humility. It is to love without bounds.

36 Things in 36 Years

Hypocrite

Hypocrite