Do you understand the meaning of righteousness? I must admit that until recently I never really understood. When I was young, I thought it meant a holiness that I could not achieve, but possibly the hierarchy or other leaders of the church could. When I got older, I thought it was a holiness that when met people viewed themselves as better than others leading them to judge us as unworthy. Like this scripture explains in Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Well, the truth I discovered is not what I had thought. Righteousness is upright living that aligns with the expectations of God. It is learning His truth and moral standing and choosing a lifestyle that meets God’s standards without judging others. These moral choices make us holy, and it separates us NOT and I repeat NOT because we are better than others, but we are separated and stand out from others by our obedience to God’s laws vs. what society and our culture tell us. Obedience to God =holiness and it is achievable. It honors God while at the same time causes us to be different or seem “strange” to others. We are different from our choices, morals, and obedience to a God that others are not sure they believe exists. Oh yes, we can stick out like an alien with three heads, and this is good because nonbelievers and those on the fence need to see this light of Christ. Matthew 5:16
let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
There is yet another reason we should live righteousness found in Ephesians 6:14-15
Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Righteousness has a dual role as part of our spiritual armor as a breastplate that protects our heart, soul, and emotions from the tricks of the enemy that lead us to waiver from the truth. God expects us to wear this armor, especially when difficult situations arise. A difficult situation may have to do with leadership. Usually this time of year many of us are involved in various forms of leadership elections. Whether it be the PTA, a church group, a religious group, a political party; local, Statewide, Federal or something else entirely.
We as Christians pray and invite the Holy Spirit into our leadership elections because we want God’s hand in the decision, and we trust he will choose the right candidate, BUT….when the elected leader has views, we don’t agree with or perhaps the leader is someone we don’t really like we get feisty. We pray for the hand of God and then we don’t trust that His hand made the right decision or hey, something had to go wrong because God surely would not have picked so and so. Can you relate to what I am saying? Then the council, committee, party or group becomes dysfunctional and ill with ailments stemming from resentment, lack of collegiality and volunteering causing the leader and team to be overworked, overwhelmed, and productivity for good to be squashed. We may not even realize that we are doing it, but trust me when I say that if we are not supporting our leaders we are not living in righteousness. Righteousness in this situation would be for us to act obediently to God’s leadership choice. Supporting them whether we like their leadership style or not or worse case scenario is removing ourselves entirely from the group if we are unable to serve and help them do well in their role, because if we don’t, we hurt the whole group.
I was recently facilitating a small group discussion on ways we can improve situations like I’ve just mentioned. A woman named Clare from Washington shared a point that I thought was insightful. She said, “God gives each of us different gifts and when he chooses a leader it does not mean that they are better or worse than us. It means that he chose them, because they possess the gifts needed for that particular group at that given period and we by no means should feel slighted by his choice; the next elected leader could be you.”
That is not to say that we will not have a leader that is in it for the wrong reasons. Servant leadership is hard, being obedient and trusting God is hard too. Perhaps, this is why God gave us Pope Francis as an example of servant leadership for our generation. Monsignor Phil, from my parish last Sunday told this true story that I share with you as an example of servant leadership. Monsignor Phil said, “I know someone that works at the Vatican, and everyone is buzzing about the events that recently took place involving Pope Francis. You know that he refuses to live at the Papal luxury home and instead lives in a simple Vatican guest house apartment. The other day he woke up early and opened his front door and saw a Swiss guard standing there. He said to him, what are you doing here?
The Swiss guard said, I am on duty I worked the midnight shift. Pope Francis replied; you must be tired and went into the house and brought out a chair and said, “sit down.” The Swiss guard said I can’t sit down I am on duty. Pope Francis replied do you know who I am? I am the POPE! I hired you, so you work for me now sit down. He then walked away and returned bringing him a cup of coffee and a roll.