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Friday, January 28, 2011

What Is Righteousness?

Everyone has some sense of righteousness. It doesn't matter if he or she is a prostitute, drug dealer or preacher. There is a sense of righteousness in each one of them. Each one believes in a standard which is right. Each one works within that standard. Each one will violate his or her own standard. Each one will try to redefine his or her understanding of righteousness.

Righteousness is often determined by the one making judgment. A self-righteous person determines that he or she has been upholding a certain standard. This person may have violated the standard at some points but remains in his or her own righteousness because this violation is either ignored, covered up or unnoticed. For example: Mr. John considers himself a righteous person. He believes he has followed the standard of the Bible to the letter of the law. He prides himself on biblical knowledge and points out the sins of others frequently. He fails to see his own sins even as he chastises others to confess. He fails to see his sin of condemnation of others. He is self-righteous because he is the one determining who is righteous.

There is what I call a "common" righteousness which often invades any society. The righteousness is determined by a standard common to those who are part of any social, religious, political, intellectual or economic group. They have determined a sense of righteousness by which they judge who is upstanding. An example of this was found in those who were of the Global Warming group. They castigated anyone who brought any evidence contrary to their sense of righteousness. They ignored and covered up science and claimed that they were prophets of their standard of righteousness.

Churches often live in this common righteousness. They may stand up for biblical righteousness until it affects a revered family within the church. Then, it is ignored. Those who try to correct the unrighteousness are declared unrighteous themselves. The standard of righteousness is that which is accepted by those within the church. This is why so many "outsiders" claim the church is full of hypocrites. They can claim it because it is true.

Many people believe that we need to strive for biblical righteousness. This righteousness is established by biblical standards. They believe that we should be able to judge what we have done as right or wrong by what the Bible says.

I find this will not do for I have the same tendency to ignore my own sinfulness. I overlook, ignore and make excuses for the things I have done. I am like Adam in the garden who claimed it was the woman whom God had made who really sinned.

A biblical standard defines righteousness but it cannot be those who read the Bible who declare their own righteousness. We will often become self-righteous and condemning of others if the judgment is left to us. No, we must stand before God. He alone should determine our righteousness.

This is why the Psalmist prays for God to reveal his wickedness. He simply can't do it on his own.

Neither can we.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i am a church secretary in california, at a church that is dying. We just drove our interim pastor to resign, but yesterday I typed on the internet. . .signs of a dying church and up came your blog. Not an accident but a blessing. . .divine intervention! I have been reading with my husband several of your post and we have been blessed and encouraged. Please pray for us, this body of believers, that God will not remove our lampstand. That His spirit will fall upon us and we will repent. May God Bless you.