Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stand for True Righteousness, Part 3

If the kind of righteousness talked about here, what is often called "horizontal" righteousness, begins with the core commitment that each person is unique and created in the image of God, then how does that play out in actual interchanges between individuals, groups, and in society at large? At the heart of the word "relationship" is the matter of how we "relate" to one another. God, in the Bible, calls us to an ethic of love--of unconditional caring for others. This kind of love is not an emotional attachment but a commitment to seek what is in the best interest of others, putting self in second place.

When you take a stand for true righteousness in a marriage, then your spouse will know it. You will not treat your spouse merely as the means to your financial security, sexual fulfillment, source of happiness, or whatever else you can come up with. Rather, you will look for ways to fulfill your spouse in every area of marital life by giving yourself sacrificially to him or her in every area of life.

In your friendships you will seek the best for your friends. You will build them up, encourage them, and look for opportunities to do them good. In dealing with those who oppose you, you will likewise look for peace--genuine peace. If need be, you will endure persecution without retaliation. Still, it is important to speak the truth, even when doing so seems to hurt. There are times when showing a loving concern for others means opposing their self-destructive and sinful conduct. The Christian engages in the battle for true righteousness when he or she stands for biblical morality in opposition to the degradation of the world. This means saying things others may find offensive or unpleasant. It does not mean saying those things in an offensive and unpleasant way. Even when standing against the prevailing immorality of our day, believers should make every effort to be winsome in their conduct.

Don't be afraid to say that homosexuality, adultery, fornication, theft, murder, abortion, cheating on taxes, lying, political corruption, etc., are wrong. Don't be afraid to say that Jesus is the only way to have real peace with God and escape his wrath. These things are all true, and ultimately to say them is to show genuine love for others, because saying these things points others to the best possible way to live and the only way to eternal life. It is no crime to speak against the evils of our age. However, find ways to do it that are constructive, not destructive, loving, not insensitive. Learn to build bridges, not burn them. Demonstrate a stand for true righteousness by how your relate to others.


  1. what is your view on 2 Cor 5:21? It was a big scripture in the wof movement.

  2. Well, Paul there is dealing with the righteousness required for salvation, what some call "vertical" righteousness, our right standing and right relationship with God. The Father "made Him (Christ) to be sin," or imputed to him our sin and executed the punishment that we should have experienced on Christ. The counter-point to that is that "we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)." That is, by virtue of our union with Christ God no longer sees our sin but the complete and perfect righteousness of Christ, which is imputed, or credited to us, by faith (Rom 5: 1). As a result we need no longer fear his condemnation (Rom 8:1) because we have been justified by faith before God's holy tribunal.

    That doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to live a righteous life before the word (horizontal righteousness). On the contrary, it increases our obligation because we now have the indwelling Spirit empower and willing in us to live that holy, righteous life. A life of right living toward others is one of the key distinguishing marks of being in a genuine state of righteousness before God.

  3. I completely agree with you. My only "point?" is about the last paragraph. It is very hard to "stand for righteousness" and be truthful about the immorality of some of the things our fellow Christians are doing. Many times doing this is followed with a label of legalism. I think one of the results of this is the lawlessness that is so pervasive in our churches.

  4. Balancing grace and obedience is always a challenge. What is legalism in one person's eyes is simple obedience. How do you determine what is and isn't legalism in that case? First, I think you look at what are the absolute, non-negotiables in God's word. Certain things the Bible says you shall "not" do (murder, steal, commit adultery, etc.). Then there are things you "shall do" (love the Lord your God, love your neighbor as yourself, etc.). OT commandments must be interpreted in light of NT applications, too (i.e., the Sabbath regulations). Then there are those things that may or may not cause stumbling (Romans 14). Oddly enough from our perspective, it is the legalist who is the "weaker" brother there. The legalist makes scruples about things that are secondary issues (eating meat, drinking wine, etc.).

    It is because the Church today is so biblically illiterate that we even have to have this kind of discussion today. We don't read the Bible canonically, that is, in the context of itself. We proof-text here and there without regard to context. The Puritans used to say that "a text without a context is pretext." By that they meant that to ignore the context of a passage in Scripture was to create a pretext for saying whatever you wanted. The Puritans (and early Baptists) believed the best way to interpret Scripture was by Scripture. Use the clearer passages to help in understanding the more difficult ones.

    On the issue of addressing sin in the church, that is why the role of church discipline is so vital. The world knows we're supposed to live by a higher standard, but we don't hold ourselves to it, and they rightly accuse us of hypocrisy for it. Church discipline is an aid to sanctification for the true believer and a means of pointing the false believer to Christ for salvation by dashing his/her false hopes to the ground. The point is to do it in a loving and humble way, not in a hateful or high and mighty way.

  5. I heard something a long time ago and I can't remember where, but it went something like this:
    legalism is what you do to look right to people, holiness is what you do to be right with God

    The biblical illiteracy may contribute to the lack of church discipline. Many people don't even know what that is or how it works.

    15"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
    16"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
    17"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

    also we find it hard to agree on what the higher standard is