Understanding ‘Righteous-ness’

On my own, I am not righteous or good. But under the grace and mercy of God, I am granted the “vicarious righteousness,” as you termed it.” (Darius)

I think the key thing to understand here is the term ‘righteous’ and what that means. I am not sure in our current society we have a real grasp on what is being said when that term is being used biblically.

To be ‘right-eous’ is to be in good standing with some object – in this case the law. What it means is you are living by the law and are in ‘right’ standing with what is being asked of you.

Now since you are a Gentile, like myself, we are actually exempt from the law – since we are not required to follow it (not being Jewish and all). Paul makes this same argument a bunch of times – however his clause seems to be because Jesus included us in the ‘faith’ tree (as a branch of that tree) and this inclusion by the messiah has also made us exempt from the law (which we were anyways). Now one can see Jesus as fulfilling our place as Gentiles to fulfill our righteousness before the law, thus providing the exemption (which seems to be what you are saying). I basically see it as inclusion and we still have to live ‘righteous lives’ to the teachings of Jesus.

I know it sucks but we’ll never be perfect or ‘good enough’ as compared to the standards set. However, the goal seems to be a disciple, a student of the teacher (master in the subject) and to follow it the best we can to show we actually are his students. Now some might get a 60% while others get a 80% – but nonetheless they are all students of the same teacher. The hope is we take the teachings, elaborate for our situations, and build from them – proving the teacher’s work was not in ‘error’. That’s not really about perfection as much as it is about following a paradigm and ‘way’ of living to honor your master.

So I think that you have to be righteous in some way, in fact the gospels make no bones about that concept and applying it to people trying to live in that ‘way’. If it is vicarious – and we are added righteousness – then why stay a Christian…isn’t all your spiritual needs fulfilled already by the vicariousness of that righteousness?

*Comment was said on Stupid Church People’s blog ‘Church People Say Some Dumb Sh*t’

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6 thoughts on “Understanding ‘Righteous-ness’

  1. For something so critical to the Christian Theology, you would expect that “righteousness” would be similarly defined by the mainline churches. Instead there continues to be argued, and misunderstood. That said, most do believe that; a) At some point our eternal fate will depend on a judgment and b) only by the grace of God will we pass this judgment. Trying to nail down much more than that is tough, as there are a lot of conflicting beliefs. How do we attain and maintain God’s grace? Can we be assured of our salvation? If we are under God’s grace then why should we strive to be good? It is natural to think on such things, but I don’t think it is all that beneficial. If your spirit is uneasy, you may need to make changes in your life. Otherwise, follow God to the best of your ability and trust that He will keep you in His grace.

  2. Righteousness and Grace are tricky, and are used as loopholes to keeping a standard (at times). Some might think ‘I cannot do what is asked to perfection’ and just give up. While others might reason ‘God’s grace will maintain me so I don’t need to follow the ideas altogether’. I have seen both in my days and have in fact reasoned through them in my time in this faith.

    Truth is, God is gracious, but we also need to be gracious. Whichever grace we show will be shown back to us (which is a type of standard). As for ‘right-eous-ness’ – I think that term is simply about reading a teaching, learning it, trying it, elaborating on it, and fitting it into one’s life so as to be ‘in line’ with what is the spirit/intent of the idea.

    For example, adultery is flat out not allowed within the framework of what Jesus taught. So we look at that teaching, learn it, understand our limitations, and what we can do to help make that a liveable idea in our lives. There cannot be a good enough reason to committ such an action against the person you love (that’s the intent). So we elaborate upon an idea like ‘do not committ adultery’ and start to develop safeguards for ourselves in liveable experience that knows won’t push us past that threshold.

    I don’t see righteousness as a ‘bad’ term, but a term about being a person of integrity in one’s pathway in this life. The idea being to stand ‘rightly’ before the idea at hand.

  3. ““Righteous” has derogatory connotations for good reasons. Ironically Jesus chastises others for it, but Christians embrace it. Not one of my favorite words.” (Sabio)

    I tend to agree, it does have negative connotations – because it is thrown around as someone’s measuring stick over others a lot of the time (ie: judgment and comparison). Sometmes it makes sense, a lot of times it leaves such a bad taste in one’s mouth it can only help it be negative.

    Truth is Jesus does chastise for ‘self-righteousness’ but not exactly about ‘righteousness’. In fact, I think Jesus is pretty clear that standards were to be maintained and the core of his debates with the Pharisee’s and other religious groups was about ‘how’ they were keeping the standards. I am not totally sure he was against using the teachings in a ‘good’ way.

    That all being said, it’s also a word I have avoided for years since I have mostly seen it abused and misunderstood. It also has a level of arrogance attached to it when used – and I don’t really like that either.

  4. In Matthew’s theology, “bearing fruit” means living out the kingdom of heaven. With Jesus as our model of what that looks like, “bearing fruit” means gender equality, open table fellowship, non-hierarchical living, embracing the human dignity of all, resistance to oppression, and resistance to religious corruption. what Jesus has to say against righteousness is against Self-Righteousness. so i don’t embrace the terminology.

    what i do embrace is like the parable of the sower, best discribed by Father Robert Capon in Parables of the Kingdom: “Once again, this is not our idea of how a respectable divine operation ought to be run…Given our druthers, our pet illustration of the kingdom would probably be a giant nail–driven into the world, appropriately enough, but a giant hammer in the hand of a giant God. Something noisy and noticeable. But a seed? Oh come now.”

    the seed is a weak image. Seeds are tiny. They fall into the ground and get covered over. They “die” into the earth. It is precisely then, when they are out of sight, that they begin to do the work of a seed. The message of the story is that the seed–the Word–sown into the world doesn’t look like all that much. It can be hard, or even impossible to find. It does its work out-of-sight, mysteriously.

    and i think things are getting better, for the most part. we’re gaining 3+ IQ points per decade. we’re getting more sustainable, more globally conscious, and less racist, oppressive, and open to LGBTQ folks (at least from what i’m seeing). we have a long way to go still, but i think we’re getting there slowly. that’s where i’m at now.

  5. “It can be hard, or even impossible to find. It does its work out-of-sight, mysteriously.” (Z1Ghost)

    I always loved Matthew, and the parables like this are part of the reason…and the idea of ‘sincerity’ with one’s actions. Maybe the seed is can only be one when it is ‘buried’ (unseen) and not when it is seen on the top of the ground (noticeable).

    I think this is one of the most unnoticed teachings of Jesus in the NT, the idea of doing things not for recognition but out of genuine sincerity (to show you live the teachings regardless of who’s watching or what it will get you). In a media crazy world, this is becoming a tougher pill to swallow.

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