Are you righteous? Am I? According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of righteous is “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.” In our study The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer defines it as “upright living that aligns with the expectations of God.”
Growing up in a small town, and even smaller church where everyone knew everyone and my father was an elder, my sisters and I were strongly encouraged to strive for perfection in all things. Whether at school, church, or home, the expectation was to do everything not just right, but perfect. There was no room for failure or bad decision making as this would not only be a poor reflection on us, but also on our parents. For a time, I bought into this notion of working hard to always be perfect and right, admittedly and annoyingly so.
However, sometime around junior high, I realized and ACCEPTED that perfection was not attainable and I was done trying. I gave up. It was time to change gears. Instead of striving for perfection, I would just be better than others. Not just at school exams or sports, but also in my behavior. At least I don’t cheat on tests or at least I go to church every Sunday--that kind of better than, too.
In the middle of the Armor of God study we were learning about the Breastplate of Righteousness. It didn’t take long to realize I was still subscribing to my junior high philosophy: I’ll just be better than everyone else, and this surely had Satan beaming with joy. The next five days of daily homework helped me understand righteousness in a totally different light and started wiping the smile off of his face.
You see, none of us are righteous on our own, nor can we attain perfect righteousness. God is perfect, and there is no way we can meet His standard of righteousness. Discouraging. And if we behave or live better than someone else, it’s still not as good as Jesus. This trap of comparative righteousness is where I have been living for decades. It has made me feel better about myself even when I am not following God’s Word in other areas of my life. Deceiving. Satan loves for us to be discouraged or deceived, but Jesus offers us an alternative.
In the Old Testament, Abraham believed in the Lord and was credited righteousness. The story of Abraham’s belief and faith is retold in the New Testament. In Romans 4:22-24, we are told not only was righteousness credited to Abraham, but it can also be credited to all who believe in God, who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. As Priscilla Shirer puts it, “When you trust Jesus as your personal savior, the penalty of sin is removed and the gift of God’s own righteousness is given (imputed) to you. It is ‘credited’ to your spiritual account. The perfection and holiness of God Himself has become yours in Christ.” Wow! Imputed righteousness is another gift from God available to all who believe. We are righteous because of Jesus and our belief in Him. So, YES, we as believers are righteous!
Time to stop stressing out in the pursuit of perfection or measuring ourselves against others. Instead, let’s accept God’s gift of imputed righteousness and implement practical righteousness. Let’s stand out by acting with humility, gentleness, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love--all qualities of righteousness. Let’s examine our attitudes, actions, interests, desires, ambitions, and perspectives, and make the necessary changes to our daily living which will make us stand out. Let’s live out each day aligned with God’s truth and expectations and declare ourselves righteous!