Thought for the Day: What exactly did Paul mean with his use of the word righteousness? The word could be translated as justice, but that still doesn’t necessarily help us in understanding what Paul was describing. There has been a tendency to think of it in terms of retributive justice, or basically punishment. But is there any sense of Good News with the old adage of getting what you deserve? There is another movement these days that talks about restorative justice, which seeks wholeness for the victim, the guilty and everyone else. It’s much easier to write people off as culpable and undeserving, yet before long we all fall into that category. Paul was vouching for his sisters and brothers in the Jewish community with whom he had some disagreements, specifically struggling with their understanding of God’s righteousness/justice. I think he would have similar concerns with how we think about righteousness and justice. At the core of Paul’s thinking was grace, an equal distribution of God’s love to all… no matter if I was a little less deserving than someone else. This is the rightness of God, and we are being invited to reflect it in every aspect of our lives. Who have we (individual or group) considered more undeserving than us, and thus we treat them as outside of God’s grace. Paul, in love, would vouch for us but then add that our understanding of righteousness is off base.
Prayer: In every moment when I am trying to show how good and right I am, I pray for Jesus to point to his life as the model of goodness and rightness. Holy God, you can find failures and shortcomings in all of us, yet sadly, we are fighting over whose failures and shortcomings are a little less bad. It is a fight for mediocrity as we stand on the backs of those we have crushed. This is far from your understanding of righteousness and justice because we’re just trying to establish our own righteousness. Forgive us and then allow your love to be the model for how we are to live with one another. In the name of the one who was just and right, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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