When faced with the news and revelations of secrets of those you have admired, or held as a model of righteous living, it leads you to believe that no one is righteous! I admired Dennis Hastert when he represented me in Congress. Now his past sins have been exposed (by money transfers, no less) and he has been judged and sentenced.
Unfortunately, liberals often make headlines out of those who have fallen from the righteous Conservative podiums. Are only fallen conservatives lacking righteousness? Going to the definition of righteous: “morally good, following religious or moral laws” you’d have to ask how you would measure the “righteousness” of someone that doesn’t follow religious laws. You’d have to know what the moral laws are in order to judge the righteousness of someone not following God, I guess. Is there a list someplace of dos and don’ts that we can refer to when establishing the righteousness or unrighteousness of a person?
The Bible has a lot to say about the righteous and righteousness. There are at least 600 uses of the words in the Bible. The one that sticks out is:
“None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10b ESV
Which is referencing the verse:
“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalms 14:3 ESV
If that’s not enough, read Proverbs 10 and see all the examples of righteous behaviors contrasted with foolish behaviors.
None of us are perfect and we all sin and make mistakes. But if we hide those sins and mistakes, and pretend we never did anything wrong, we are hypocrites. But if we publicly sin and say it is OK, aren’t we still hypocrites?
Back to the question “Is anyone righteous?” We need to look at the hearts and minds of those we hold dear, those we model ourselves after, and those who are in the public eye. The truth is, we can’t really see into their hearts or know what they are thinking. Instead we look at their behavior and what they say. And then a secret is revealed. How do they behave then? What do they say? Do they deny any wrong doing? I can think of a couple of Presidents who got caught and denied wrong doing. They even tried to convince us they did no wrong, that their “rules” of behavior were right. I can’t remember either of them admitted guilt and asked for pardon. And one was a Democrat and one was a Republican.
So if you don’t look to the Bible or God for a sense of what is right and what is wrong, how do you gauge righteousness? Are there clear moral laws we can all agree on? That way, we could clearly judge those who are unrighteous. There is the code of law. Is the behavior legal? That is where the courts get involved. If it can be proved you broke the law, then you are judged and punished accordingly.
What if my idea of right and wrong disagrees with your idea of right and wrong? Who has to compromise? Do we all agree that Hastert broke the moral law of society? Do we all agree that the terrorist bomber broke a moral law of society? Where do we draw the line on unrighteous behavior? This is where the controversies and contentious behavior have taken hold in our society. We don’t agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong.” We turn a bit gray on some issues and don’t draw a firm line.
Perhaps the most misunderstood concept of Christianity is righteousness by faith. This is in the Old Testament, the Torah, about Abram:
“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 ESV
Because of faith, Abram was counted as righteous. We know from Abraham’s story that he didn’t always follow God. Yet he is counted as righteous.
Righteousness by faith is described by John this way:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9 ESV
We are cleansed and made righteous by faith when we confess our sins, repent, and ask for forgiveness. A few of my favorite bumper stickers are “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven.” Or “Christ isn’t done with me yet.” Both describe the Christian faith as one of redemption of sins. At issue though, is that I need to acknowledge I sinned. I need to repent, turn away from, my sin. I need to ask for forgiveness, which means I humble myself before God and seek his ways.
Paul says it this way:
The Righteousness of God Through Faith:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26 ESV
The righteous walk by faith. The unrighteous follow only their own ways. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The righteous know this and ask for forgiveness and the strength to walk in God’s ways. The unrighteous do not know they have sinned. They ignore, justify, or flaunt their sins, without repentance, without remorse.
I guess it’s pretty black and white to me. Break God’s laws: you’ve sinned. Admit you have sinned: you’re forgiven. Please note however, that while forgiven you will still need to face the consequences of your sin in this world. You may be punished by the courts, you may grieve a choice, you may have broken trust with someone you love. But if you stay right with God, He has promised to redeem our mistakes.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV
Even our sins can be redeemed and good brought from them if we allow God to work in us and through us.
So is anyone righteous? Only God is truly righteous in all things, at all times. And He will give us His Righteousness when we lift our hands to Him and seek Him and follow Him. So I am made righteous by my faith in Jesus Christ, not by what I do, but by what He did for me.
When I was reading and writing this, I kept hearing an old song in my mind:
“You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever!” Hence the verse at the top of this post.