Pursuing Righteousness 

Righteousness is often associated with the law or a certain fixed moral system. While this association is not entirely inaccurate, we commonly make the mistake of attempting to be righteous through obedience of the law. It is indeed possible to achieve righteousness by following the furthest extent of the intent of the entire law in thought, word and deed. In fact, it has been done before by one person: Jesus Himself. He came to fulfill the law. This means that beyond strict obedience, He defined the intent of the law through His very being. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) This is great news for believers, for no longer do we pursue righteousness through the law but through the person of Christ! Because we have severed our identity from the image of God, it is impossible to achieve righteousness through the law. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) He is righteousness to us and for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Our righteousness is a gift of grace through the necessary work on the cross. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21)

As mentioned previously, Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst after righteousness with the promise that they would be satisfied. The pursuit of righteousness finds fulfillment in becoming righteous. Some may have the expectation that there is a reward for righteousness other than righteousness itself; and to them, other means better. But if Christ Himself is our righteousness, what reward could be more valuable? George MacDonald writes: “Let no one start with dismay at the idea of a reward of righteousness, saying virtue is its own reward. Is not virtue then a reward? Is any other imaginable reward worth mentioning beside it? True, the man may, after this mode or that, mistake the reward promised; not the less must he have it, or perish. Who will count himself deceived by overfulfilment? Would a parent be deceiving his child in saying, ‘My boy, you will have a great reward if you learn Greek,’ foreseeing his son’s delight in Homer and Plato–now but a valueless waste in his eyes? When his reward comes, will the youth feel aggrieved that it is Greek, and not bank-notes?”

As a peripheral comment, righteous anger is a concept that often remains undefined and loosely used to justify certain actions. Various violent actions of judgement by God and old testament prophets are relegated to this realm of controversially permitted conduct. With Christ as the definition of righteousness, any transgression from His nature is unrighteous and reprehensible. It certainly makes sense that these sins warrant the wrath of God. But we as mere humans fall drastically short of the definition of righteousness. Righteous anger is only justified in response to a direct infraction against the definition of righteousness itself, which is Christ Himself. It is natural to feel dismay in reaction to the misdemeanors of others, but it is not justified to act in anger in response to malice even against ourselves. It is appropriate to feel anger when someone clearly deviates from the righteous standard of God, but every single one of us is guilty of that. As soon as we condemn others, we condemn ourselves. James reminds us that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) While anger may indeed be warranted, it is easy for us to overlook our own offences in judging other. The deplorable condition of the world should lead us to sorrow and lament as we ask we pursue the righteousness of Christ.

Flee and Pursue

2 Timothy 2:22 encourages us to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Fleeing and pursuing both involve intentional and prompt movement. The exhortation suggests that these movements are identical in purpose and execution. To flee with no pursuit results in aimless wandering incited by fear and resulting in emptiness. To simply flee youthful passions without the pursuit would be to rejoice over an empty cup in a dry desert because it has no sand in it while as yet there is no water inside to quench your thirst. This is not to say that we should disregard the flight, but it is easy to become motivated by fear, anxiety or self-righteousness instead of calling on the Lord from a pure heart. Jesus proclaims that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed with satisfaction. In a sense, the pursuit of righteousness is itself righteous and deserving of blessing. We are to strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace in that order in accordance with the ordinance defined by God. It is encouraging to know that there are others who we can flee and pursue along with.

Act Rather Than React

We are a reactive generation. We are told what to think and what to believe and all we have to do is accept or reject it. If we don’t like what we are being told, we look for communities that will tell us what we like to hear. Sadly, this is true within and without the church. Having itching ears, we accumulate for ourselves teachers to suit our own passions, and turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. We are driven by emotions. Our reasoning is biased by our beliefs.

The recent US election has provoked emotions and heightened tensions between already divided communities. Slander and insults are thrown back and forth. We are motivated by fear. We do not trust anyone. We do not strive for the truth. We all cry out for justice, but only for those we do not agree with. If justice were fully executed, none of us would go without consequence.

I challenge you to act rather than react. If someone posts something that you do not agree with, find out why they think that way. If someone comments on your video expressing hate or disgust, do not reply to start an argument. If someone goes as far as calling you names directly, let them suffer their own consequences. 

Instead, take action! If you feel strongly about a certain cause, go out and do something about it! Start a fundraiser. Do some research and write an article. Talk to real people in real life who think differently than you. 

This blog is my way of taking action. Whenever I have looked at posts on Facebook in the past week, my spine began to tense up with emotions elicited by posts by my friends in my newsfeed. I intentionally chose not to respond and closed the browser tab. It’s not that I am disengaged; I just choose to act rather than react.

I voted for Trump. By no means do I think he was an ideal candidate. But given that the issues with government tend to be systemic rather than personal, I chose to vote for him because Hillary would only have perpetuated systemic injustice. Unfortunately, Trump has struck a personal chord with millions of people in this nation. I cannot disregard what he has said and done, and the fears and emotions of those he has offended are completely valid. Many people are saying that Trump is not their president. I am sorry to inform you that he is and you cannot deny it. But he doesn’t have to be your God. The government cannot save you. 

We have seen this all before. “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves.” (1 Samuel 8:18) Samuel warned the nation of Israel about the consequences of having a king. They chose to reject God as king. The US has chosen to do the same, but we can choose to be citizens of God’s kingdom. We still need to respect and submit to the authorities God has allowed here on earth, but I would encourage you to accept God as your King. He is the only one who can save you. 

An Open Relationship

Do I have an open relationship with God? I have a nominal commitment to Him which is demonstrated through self proclamation and occasional encounters through church, prayer and reading scripture. But so often I think that He is not enough and seek the thrills of the world. My heart is divided between various temptations of worldly success, secular entertainment and self-serving relationships. But God does not settle for a minimal commitment. When I had squandered everything He gave me and became a slave to the world, He bought me back with His life. I looked to others to ‘give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink,’ but I did not realize that God was my only provider. When the world failed to fill me, He fulfilled my every need and want. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (ESV) 

Food for Thought

The verse “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” is quoted by Jesus Himself when He was being tempted by the devil. This verse is commonly interpreted to mean that as Christians, we need spiritual food in addition to physical food for survival. This is certainly true, but I think there is more to be said. Bread is a staple of many cultures, but seldom do we eat bread alone. Jesus shared wine at meals, desired figs from a tree and even cooked fish for breakfast for his disciples. These foods provide enjoyment in addition to nourishment. While the word of God is dense with spiritual wisdom, it is also seasoned with joy. Reading scriptures is not only essential to life with God, it is desirable and enjoyable.

Occupy My Thoughts

Occupy my thoughts
Invade my mind
Captivate my heart
Fill me with your Spirit
Surround me with your love
Consume me with your presence
Let all that I do bring glory to Your name
May my reflections be pleasing to You
Cause my speech to be seasoned with Your word
Save me from myself
Forgive me of my sin
Transform me into Your likeness
I am at your disposal