I had been mentoring this beautiful young woman for some time when she asked the question “What is righteousness? You hear about it all the time but what is it really?” It felt like such an important question for a young person to ask and this post is based on a discussion we had.
It took me a long time to respond to her question and I think it’s because I needed to study and ask God; and to separate righteousness from religiosity. The bible talks a lot about righteousness and so does the church. As human beings, when we discuss it, I feel like righteousness and religiosity are blended together and it’s not right. Sometimes we talk about righteousness like it’s something that can be gained or perhaps earned…and maybe if you don’t have it you just aren’t that faithful. Somehow we cloak righteousness in shame. I think that’s where religiosity comes in.
Lori and I were talking about this awhile back, she says it better than I ever could so with her permission, I’ll quote her:
“Religiosity confines us and blinds us to a false state of submission because instead of submitting to God it causes us to submit to man. Enrobed in the cloak of ‘fear of man’, religiosity also binds us and motivates us to do whatever it takes to keep a false sense of peace and harmony. It holds us captive as victims in feelings of subserviency, inadequacy, doubt in our ability to hear God and trust what He is speaking to us, inferiority, false humility, helplessness and angst within our very core. Religiosity cripples us and makes us reliant on the things the world (man) can offer to bring us comfort; to save us (if we DO this for that person we are going to get to heaven). It also makes us feel better about our own sinfulness by causing us to be judgmental and critical of others. It places man on a pedestal and dethrones the King of Kings totally negating what and WHO Jesus died for. “
Righteousness is something sacred and beautiful and pure – and to me, deeply private and intimate. God called Noah righteous, and David a righteous line. To me, one way of describing what righteousness is, is purity of heart…not to be confused with perfection. David sinned many times and yet God said he was a man after God’s own heart. See, it’s always about the heart with God. He sees RIGHT to the heart and knows our motives for doing things or not doing things (long before we do). He knows all of our imperfections and our fears and our quirks – he has named every mask and wall we have.
He just longs for the heart.
This is why it’s so important to separate religiosity from righteousness because religiosity is all about performance and man pleasing. It’s all about doing right and being right. Righteousness is a hidden gem within the heart that shines with a true love for God…it’s ALL about trusting God. My most favorite scripture in the Bible (if I had to choose one) is in 2 Chronicles 20:12 “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you Lord.” It’s one of my favorite passages. It starts way back before Jehoshaphat’s story with two kings before him. Every time they walked in their own strength, there was war in their kingdom. God uses war to bring us back to Him. Adversity is never wasted. I always try to remember that when chaos threatens to overwhelm me and I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are willing to remind me. Back to 2 Chron.; when they turned their eyes to God and walked in His strength, there was peace. Righteousness is about the dedication of the heart. I don’t know if I’m able to get out to you what really fills my heart when I think of this…it’s intimate and between you and God. There is something about knowing our identity – truly knowing who we are and what we’re made for.
There is something woven tightly,
yet ever so gently into the
heart of each of us that calls out to God
and beckons us evermore towards Him.
It’s ultimately our choice which way we take. If we seek to know and be known by God in earnest, in the quiet moments when no one is watching…in the intimacy of our hearts we offer ourselves to Him – then our eyes are on Him even when we don’t know what to do. To me there is nothing more intimate than righteousness. It’s not something we can acquire or endeavor to gain. It’s a fragrance and offering to the King as nothing else we ever could. To me, when I look at all the men and women in the Bible called righteous, I see their hearts are towards God. Yes they sin (we all do) but they offer even their sin to God with a love so deep that words can’t even hold it. It’s the ultimate willingness to open all of our hearts to God – even the nasty, sticky parts; the dark, hidden parts…it’s a willingness to let Him touch every part of us. I don’t know if there is anything more sacred than that.
When I asked my mentor about this, he responded by saying:
2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about where Christ exchanged His righteousness for our sin and we exchanged our sin for His righteousness. Romans talks about the imputed righteousness of Christ that is ours. That is in your words Laurel, something that can only be described as sacred and pure and beautiful. And then there is also the reality that while we do need to choose the right, in and of ourselves, left to ourselves we could do nothing right, so righteousness is something deeply intimate because it can only flow out of intimacy with Him.
I have been talking a lot about being vulnerable lately…vulnerable with God especially. I just love that last statement by my mentor: