Author and theologian, Eugene Peterson, makes this observation about American culture in Run with the Horses:
“There is little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are prominent in our culture. We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs. Infamous criminals act out the aggressions of timid conformists. Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators. People, aimless and bored, amuse themselves with trivia and trash.”
“Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness gets headlines” concludes Peterson.
Occasionally the media will report a good deed, but too often the news is filled with the ungodly actions of unrighteous individuals. In wicked world, Jesus calls on His people to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.”
In a broad sense righteousness refers to the state of a person who is acceptable to God–the doctrine of righteousness. In a personal way righteousness may speak of one’s integrity. Virtue. Purity of life. It has to do with rightness or correctness of thinking, feeling and acting in a spiritual sense.
Righteousness has at least three aspects:
(1) Moral righteousness. This has to do with the rightness of character. It is conduct that pleases God. The Bible says, “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” (1 Jn 3:7). God tells us that character counts. Behavior matters. Actions influence. And they should be based on righteousness.
(2) Social righteousness. This involves a concern for our fellow-man. The Bible often speaks of pleading the case for the fatherless and widows. Jesus condemns those who exploited the weak. The poor. The disenfranchised. When Jesus gave the parable of the Pharisee and Publican who went to pray, Luke precedes it with this observation. “He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Lk. 18:9).
(3) Spiritual Righteousness. The book of Romans says a lot about spiritual righteousness as God’s plan for justification. The fact is we have all have sinned. None is righteous. No, not one! (Rom. 3:11; 23). However, many people are like the people Paul describes, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Rom. 10:3). He then tells them that Jesus is the answer! He is our righteousness! And in Him we can receive justification. Be saved from sin. And find righteousness.
In some ways righteousness is a deep, theological subject. But in other ways it is simple. We must admit our sinfulness. Come to Christ. And obey the gospel. In it God reveals His righteousness.
The apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17)
When we live by God’s righteousness, we will produce the fruit of righteousness (Phil 1:11). The righteous man lives a life of integrity (Prov 20:7). He advocates justice, speaks wisdom, and pleads the cause of the downtrodden (Ps. 37:30; Prov. 29:7).
Indeed the old Chinese proverb was right. “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman