Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Understanding Righteousness

Righteousness – a priest once told me that one person’s righteousness is another person’s curse. How unredemptive if his statement is true. Righteousness - in a broad sense is defined as the state of a person who is as she or he ought to be, A condition acceptable to God. Matthew’s Jesus, As we’re (Re)learning in Lectionary Year A , more so than Jesus in any of the other gospels focuses on righteousness. The Greek work for Righteousness appears six times in Matthew. you can’t find it in Mark at All, only once in Luke, and twice in John. Matthew is all on it, this Righteousness theme, – and why?

Well, it’s akin to reading any other piece of literature – in order to understand the text – you have to understand the author’s context. we Anglicans incorporate the gift of God-Given reason to interpret scripture and consequently Seek to live righteous, merciful, Peace-loving Christian lives in a complex and often evil world.

Matthew’s frame of reference is vastly different than ours but he’s got one and the Gospel we have received from him expresses it. It is not a mistake that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount takes place on of all place – a Mountain – a mountain much like the one that Moses came down from when he delivered the ten commandments to the Israelites as they traveled on their exodus to the Promised land. Matthew’s goal is to recognize Jesus’ obedience to, and preservation of Biblical law. (Levine, 2001) Jews of Matthew’s context were bound to a covenant with God – and BY God – they were supposed to live perfectly. If the Law of Moses was meant to provide divine guidance for the ancient Israelites then Jesus’ teachings are meant to provide divine guidance for his followers (That’s US J).

There’s one critical issue for us to keep at the center of our Hearts in terms of righteous living. This kingdom of Heaven has come near (Matthew 4:17), The Reign of God is not a place that people go to when people die. It is a reference to God’s presence on Earth – a universal state of being that God provides– at the end of the age – by overthrowing the forces of evil. (Ehrman, 2000). It is however our responsibility and Mission to participate in the in-breaking of Christ’s presence of Justice and Compassion, Today.

It is Jesus’ commandment for us is to see his fulfillment of the law as a means to help us get past prescriptive law into living more fully into the state of grace he provides for us. For centuries, societies have indoctrinated laws as a means for human beings to respect, and care for each other.

The revolutionary events That we are witnessing in the Middle East over the past Few weeks are living, breathing examples of the essential needs Human beings yearn for when they are oppressed under political systems that completely set aside laws of basic human dignity and yes, Freedom. Christianity is nonetheless not merely about social justice. It is not, in and of itself a community organizing effort. Christianity is about living into Jesus’ life, Death and Resurrection in spiritual, pastoral, and prophetic ways. It’s about jumping right into the pile of Messy Human relationships and finding Christ there.

How about this? How about instead of giving ourselves a grade on righteousness we shift our focus to what’s going on with the lives of the young or elderly people who live in the neighborhoods around us. How about we better spend our time evaluating the nature of our Christian lives, not in order to pass a Law Test, but to consequently gaze onto the world through Jesus’ eyes of compassion and mercy? Striving to be imperfect but dedicated co-creators of Jesus’ Reign – here and now is where and when we can strive to claim Matthean Jesus' righteousness. There are innumerable opportunities for such Christian righteousness, including the (in)direct support of people close to our homes and around the world who need us to walk two miles, rather than one with them.

Blessings Along The Way.