We all have ‘a righteousness of our own’.

If ‘God’s righteousness’ is the act by which He declares sinners righteous in His sight then what is ‘our righteousness’?

Yesterday I was moved hearing a Pastor tell me what he said to a same-sex couple with a child who have started attending his church. After telling them that as a church they hold and promote a different standard to what they are practising he said, “However, if anyone in this church condemns you, then tell me first, because whoever does will be out of the door, not you.” In what is an explosive subject for many I thought this was the heart of a shepherd. But it reflected a Pastor’s desire to keep God’s righteousness at the centre of the church and without compromise making sure ‘our righteousness’ doesn’t impede the benefits of that.

We all have a righteousness of our own. Paul looks at his own family, the Jews, he longs for their salvation but he knows their righteousness is preventing them.

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10 v 1-4)

This is what ‘our righteousness’ does:

  • It says the benefits of being good/righteous in God’s sight is just for us, within the ‘club’ or the ‘tribe’, it cannot be shared outside of this.
  • It blinds us to the fact that God works in places and with people we cannot believe He would and neither would we want Him to if He did.
  • It pushes against Christ being at the end of every sentence and sentencing. Every standard – Christ; every commandment – Christ; every consequence – Christ; every judgment – Christ; it seeks to remove the finished work of Christ.
  • It is overly concerned with work, practice, demonstrations, effort and showmanship.
  • It is the battle with the old v the new. It can be found in both camps because it is the battle itself. The old hangs onto the law/standards and gives guarantees on those performances and the new says it is a better day now and looks disparagingly on the old. But Paul shows us how to hold both not in tension but harmony. For example, his use of Old Testament Scripture throughout the letter reveals that he hasn’t torn it up at all. How would we understand sin without Genesis? Or redemption without the wrath of Exodus? Or the cross without the Atonement of Leviticus? Or the covenant without Deuteronomy? We need both!

The church and ourselves must keep God’s righteousness central to everything and not let ours creep in.

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