01 Jun Fight For The Cause of Righteousness
New life in Jesus is marked by a desire for righteousness – that is, the “state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). Those that follow him “hunger and thirst” for it (Matthew 5:6), as they notice the lack of righteousness in their own lives and communities. Reality becomes a bit clearer: everything isn’t as it should be, and all of creation is waiting to be made right by God.
He has already begun the work of making right. Paul wrote, “God made him who had no sin [which is to say, Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was cursed on the cross so that those who believe in him might be made right before God. His righteousness has become our own, and we’ve been restored.
Then why is everyone around us still so broken? Why does the believer still make mistakes? Why do most people still live sinful lives? If God has established his kingdom of righteousness, then why do we witness so much hurt?
A university professor helped me understand this apparent discrepancy by drawing a parallel from World War II history. June 6, 1944 – more commonly known as D-Day – was the turning point of the war. When the Allies successfully stormed the beaches of Normandy, they broke Germany’s hold on France and began the liberation of Europe. However, things were not completely restored until Germany’s unconditional surrender 11 months later. In those 11 months, battles were fought as the Allies sought dominance; they were gaining power, but Hitler was technically still in control. Finally, in May of 1945, Europe was totally freed from Axis oppression.
My professor’s assertion was this: in the same way that the Allies established victory on the beaches of Normandy, so Jesus established victory on the cross. Until Jesus returns to usher in eternity with the new creation (Revelation 21), righteousness must contend with sinfulness. We live in the 11 months, when righteousness is very much a reality, but war is still waged for the restoration of all things.
That’s why we still find ourselves, as followers of Jesus, longing for everything to be made right: that righteousness has been given to us, yet we recognize that it does not characterize everything within and around us. So we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), abandoning all other pursuits, because God has appointed us as his ambassadors to the world. We, by the work of the Holy Spirit, are working for the cause of righteousness–as we experience sanctification and promote righteousness by discipleship.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” They themselves are declared right as they confess faith in him, and their further longing for rightness will be satisfied progressively as all of creation is placed under his reign (Hebrews 2:8), until hunger and thirst and sin and shame are all done away with in the new creation (Revelation 7:16, 21:27, 22:3). The followers of Jesus are filled with his righteousness now, and await the day when it will fill all things.