Reblog: Living Rightly Will Never Lead To Righteousness

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Amen! Grace is free. The fruits of grace are a result, not a cause.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

grace and righteousness 2

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      For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14.)

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Lent: What is Love?

Rachel Held Evans wrote a thought-provoking post today over on her blog.

‘One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us.’

Rachel Held Evans, post ‘My Parents‘.

This echoes an unrelated post, from Contemplative in the Mud, about the need for relationship to be the primary expression of love (a post so good I printed it off and stuck it on my fridge). Ben writes:

‘Before all projects, before all plans, before all works and actions is being… How could we have forgotten the overriding value of simply who and what we are, in a kind of rest at the centre of our heart, which overflows onto the tiniest of our gestures, lines on our face, attention to details in the lives of others, and so on? How could we have forgotten that, beneath all the action anyone could do to or with others, there exists the substructure of the relationship in itself?’

Contemplative in the Mud, post ‘Before All Else: Being

Indeed, both of these posts reach the heart of Paul’s famous words to the church at Corinth:

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal… 

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen…

In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1,4-8,13 (Phillips)

Paul goes to great lengths to establish love as the source of everything else, and this is echoed elsewhere in the bible: in the book of Isaiah, in the Psalms, in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels, in the book of James, in Paul’s letters to other churches… and that’s just off the top of my head! The list goes on.

So why do we still insist that being right is more important than being loving? Am I without sin, that I may throw the first stone at the one who is ‘wrong’? Did Jesus emphasise ‘rightness’ first? Or did He, in fact, emphasise relationship first, as Rachel, Ben and the biblical writers suggest?

On Judging Others

Thank you for this, Pastor Boudreaux. Such a subtle sin this can be – probably because sometimes it has the appearance of ‘righteousness’. I have fallen into this trap – it is called ‘pride’. I have to keep asking God to remove it. Righteousness always wears the cloak of humility.

 

Here’s how the gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus’ attitude to ‘sinners’ – not only does He not condemn them, first He calls one of them to be His disciple, and then He says that they are the people whom He chooses:

 

Jesus left there and as he passed on he saw a man called Matthew sitting at his desk in the tax-collector’s office. “Follow me!” he said to him—and the man got to his feet and followed him.

Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.”

Matthew 9:9-13 (Phillips)

‘Mercy and not sacrifice’? Not the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners‘? It’s the glorious Upside Down Kingdom again! Lord, bring me to my knees in humility before You. May I only ever seek to serve – and never to ‘glorify’ myself.

A Pastor's Thoughts

DoretheosWhy are we so ready to judge our neighbor? Why are we so concerned about the burden of others? We have plenty to be concerned about, each one has his own debt and his own sins. It is for God alone to judge, to justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution and our preparedness, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that he alone has. For God judges the affairs of a bishop in one way and those of a prince in another. His judgment is for an abbot or for a disciple, he judges differently the senior and the neophyte, the sick man and the healthy man. Who could understand all these judgments except the one who has done everything, formed everything, and knows everything?

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The Earnest Sledgehammer

The sledgehammer of righteousness?

Getting carried away by one’s earnestness, one’s zeal, is easily done, especially as a young Christian, or as an older person new to Christ. It happens with those of us who should know better, too, on occasion: we bring a sledgehammer, name it ‘righteousness’ and use it to suppress, even to oppress, those whom we should be reaching out to in love. We pretend that following Christ is about sticking to (our) particular set of rules, rather than recognising the freedom from sin that is a gift of Grace.

In ‘Longing for God’ the author writes:

‘…we too want to imitate Jesus… But imitation is a tricky thing. It easily becomes so superficial, so outward. It is easy to see this in the ‘disciples’ of our contemporary celebrity figures… we quickly fall into the same trap. We so want to be like Jesus and so desperately try to follow the way of Jesus that… we end up in some silly, superficial mimicry that has nothing to do with righteousness and peace and joy…’

   ~ Longing for God, Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe

(highlighting is my own)

I am also reminded of these words from the book of James, which I read last week:

‘Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God… 

…You can’t pick and choose in these things, specialising in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder?

…Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.’

James 2:5-13, The Message

(underlining is my own)