For Righteousness Sake

Last Sunday, we took somewhat of a turn in our study of the Beatitudes. We moved from the characteristics that we will generally begin to display when we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), namely that we will be merciful (v.7), pure in heart (v.8) and we will be peacemakers (v.9) to the idea that persecution is actually a blessing.

The 2 ideas that we have to understand to know what Jesus is talking about is surely persecution and a correct understanding of rightousness. Persecution is “the act of harassing, oppressing, or killing people because of their difference from society.” It can be religious but it doesn’t have to be. Anyone who is treated poorly because they are different from the majority of society is being persecuted in some way.

Jesus wasn’t really addressing all persecution, he had a specific type in mind…for righteousness sake…that would lead to blessing but what does that mean?

Usually we are so focused on righteousness in the church in the context of believing and doing the “right” thing. However, we’ve found that a better understanding from the Old and New Testaments shows us that there is a relational component attached to this idea of righteousness, too. The idea that we “do right” by someone or they “do right” by us. In this context we would understand God’s love, mercy, salvation and keeping his promises as God “doing right” by us while asking us to “do right” by him.

This understanding of righteousness means that more than simply trying to “be right” or “do right”, we must be focused on the work of Christ to reconcile people with God AND with each other. That would help us understand the purpose of some other admonitions in the Bible including:

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. -Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. -Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. -1 John 4:20–21 (NLT)

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. -Romans 16:17–18 (NLT)

Paul explains our new found life in Christ and in righteousness like this:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; -2 Corinthians 5:17–18 (ESV)

There is a component of living righteously that pertains to every one of our relationships. God is blessing those who, I believe, are seeking to help restore humanity through the gospel to relationships that look more like Eden than the world around us today. That’s what the gospel is about. Not new forced behaviors but new found relationships with God and our fellow man/woman.

Let me leave you with a question on how to apply this understanding that we will be persecuted if we seek this form of righteousness. How can we heal relationships during all that is happening in our nation, right now?

Of course, it starts with the gospel, but what about for those that have the gospel? How do we practice our righteousness before men?

Love you all,

Pastor Mark

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