Monday, 26 September 2011
Galatians: Freedom and Road Righteousness
How did you like your session with Brother Martin this week? I loved the image of a field passively receiving the rain. It shows me the posture of my soul before him, thirsty and barren, as well as his lavish goodness, pouring out righteousness and every other grace on my life. It also shows me the order of his Work and my work. The ground receives the rain, and then it bears fruit. The order is not selfish, because the ground doesn’t just receive and not produce. But the order is necessary, the ground must not try to bear fruit before receiving the rains from on high.
Did you have a favorite part?
How ’bout that righteousness? A big chunk of the reading dealt with the word “righteousness.” Luther distinguishes between four types of righteousness, remarking that there are “various kinds of righteousness.” Well, there may be, but quite frankly, “righteousness” is a word I only hear in church. It doesn’t mix easily into casual conversation. “How’s your righteousness going?” “How ’bout that righteousness?” Does this idea ever come up in the world outside of church?
I was pondering this as I drove down Bear Valley Parkway one day. School traffic! I forgot I should avoid this route at this time of day. I passed the sign showing me that the street would soon narrow from two lanes to one. Merge left. I’d better get over. Of course as soon as I did, that lane slowed to a crawl while cars continued to stream pass me on the right. Didn’t they see the sign? They are going to run out of lane soon. Feeling somewhat self-satisfied at my good planning, I sat in my non-moving-but-not-going-away lane, secure and slightly sorry for the scatterbrained motorists zipping by on my right.
Then it dawned on me. They are getting ahead of me, taking advantage of me. Opportunists! I bet they think they can cut in line up there where the lane runs out. NO WAY! “Don’t let them in!” I yell from my car to my fellow “early mergers” in the lane ahead of me. “They are ‘late mergers!’ We need to teach them a lesson!” Twenty minutes later I reached the point where two lanes became one. A green Volvo turns its left turn signal on as it pulls up next to me. Not on your life. I glare at the driver and gun ahead without looking back. At least I didn’t use a real gun.
Righteousness all around. That day I got it. You and I interact with various kinds of righteousness all day long. We want to be righteous. Only we shorten the word to “right.” We want to be right! We take a law, in this case the traffic law of merging left, and measure ourselves against it. Some of us take a conservative approach, obeying early, staying far away from the edge, looking with a mixture of pity and self-righteousness on those who obey late. Others of us take a liberal approach, obeying at the last minute, pushing to the limits of the law, looking with a mixture of pity and self-righteousness on those who obey early. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the law-breakers!
So you see, wherever there is law–your law, my law, the law of the land, the law of culture, the law of conscience–there is righteousness. The two go hand in hand. My husband admits to having “dishwasher loading righteousness” and sighs with impatience whenever he encounters my inefficient loading techniques.
What kind of “righteousness” do you recognize in your life? Now’s the time to jump in and share. Email righteousness? Fashion righteousness? Parenting righteousness? Chime in!
Getting us ready to receive the gift. Recognizing the issue of righteousness in our own lives will prepare us to continue studying Galatians. It will also prepare us to hear the good news and receive the good gift.
The gospel declares that there is only one Righteous one, Jesus Christ. His righteousness is a gift, given to any and all who place their trust in him. He is the only Savior, giving us the gift. He is also the only Judge, declaring us righteous on the basis of his gift. He alone justifies us.
Let’s keep that difference in mind whenever we encounter righteousness on the road or anywhere else!