When I think of the “righteousness of God”, I have always thought of his moral character. The term has meant, to me, that God is pure, holy and upright. In other words, he does not lie, watch pornography or eat sweets after 9 PM. My goal has been to be “righteous” like he is… to be morally upright, pure and holy. I have felt like I have “done alright” in this, except for the part about eating sweets after 9 PM.
However, in reading the book “Woke Church” by Eric Mason, I came across a concept that has informed and challenged me. Let me share this concept with you in my own words, starting with Psalm 71.
Psalm 71:1–4 (NIV) 1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. 3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
The psalmist is being attacked by people that he calls wicked, evil and cruel. In light of that he calls upon God to save him using the plea “in your righteousness”. In other words, the righteousness of God is what the Psalmist is calling upon to save him. If our view of God’s righteousness stops with the idea of “moral purity”, this seems difficult to understand. How does the fact that God is morally upright, provide a basis upon which to ask God to rescue him from evil?
However, as I read “Woke Church”, I was reminded that the word for “righteousness” in the OT and NT is also translated as “justice”. The “righteousness of God” is the “justice of God”. The “righteousness of God” is not merely a reference to his “moral purity”, it refers to his “justice” or to say it differently to his desire to “make things right”.
The Psalmist is being overwhelmed by evil and he calls upon God to “make things right”, because the character of God is filled with “righteousness” or his desire to make things right.
To be righteous as God is, is not merely to pursue “moral purity”, but it is to desire to pursue justice, or to make things right, or to correct injustice. I am good at this when the injustice is directed at me. However, I have often failed to see the importance of addressing injustice directed at others. I want to know and experience God, therefore I want to address injustice. Of course in our day, there are multiple, often contradictory views of what “injustice” consists of. Additionally, it takes great wisdom to know how to address injustice. So this is my prayer…
“Lord give me wisdom and understanding to see injustice around me, and give me wisdom and courage to address it in a way that honors you”.
Will you make this your prayer as well? Maybe you can start by reading “Woke Church”