“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.”
As I heard the scripture reading this weekend in worship, I started thinking about the word “righteousness” since it was mentioned so many times. I had a sense that it was centered around being perfect and upholding the rules. I grew up in a very small, conservative, Lutheran church where it was good to be seen as righteous. It was good to be indignant towards those who didn’t know as much, or didn’t do things the right way or were different than others. God liked the righteous because they knew all the answers in Sunday School and confirmation classes and could defend hot topics like abortion and closed communion. Those who were righteous were on the church council and taught Sunday School and sang in the choir. They had a place in heaven for sure.
What I just described is not the same definition of righteousness that Pastor Rhonda used in her message this weekend. Honestly, it might not be the definition that the church from my childhood would claim either. Pastor Rhonda defined righteousness as a “life-giving, vibrant relationship.” She said that righteousness was a right relationship that everyone wanted to be a part of. Paul was using the righteousness of God to bring community to a set of believers that were divided, broken and different from one another. That through Christ we are free to be friends with those who are different and broken and not perfect.
As I was letting those two realms of righteousness ruminate in me, I decided to dig out my big, blue Luther’s Catechism to see if I could understand how my definition and what I heard in worship were so extreme. I looked through the glossary and found this: “Righteousness=Sinlessness; moral perfection. God has righteousness and demands righteousness from us. Through faith in Christ, his righteousness is given to us.”
There it was right in print. “God demands righteousness from us.” That’s all my heart could remember. It completely left out the last part of how because of Jesus, I don’t have to do anything to have this righteousness. It’s just sitting right there as a gift to me, waiting for me to believe and receive. I don’t have to have all the answers, or debate hot topics or be legalistic about obeying the rules. Because of Jesus, it’s done for me. Does God want me to follow rules and try to be sinless? Absolutely. But he knows I’m going to fall short and he gave me a Gift anyway.
Gracious Father, Thank you for sending your Son to save and redeem us, even though we don’t deserve it. Help us to work to be the best person you intended us to be. Help us to create community with everyone you place in our lives. Grow our faith so we can be closer to you. In your mighty Son’s name, Amen
Written by Julie Anderson
Julie Anderson is a member of Sheridan’s Devotion Writing Team. She works part-time as Sheridan’s Children’s Music Coordinator where she is passionate about teaching children to use their musical gifts to praise God. Julie is married to Scott and counts her greatest honor as being mom to Adrienne, Eliot and Elise.