Tag Archives: Righteousness

Strength in Ephesians: The Body, the Armor, the Power

If you’ve been part of a marching band, you know how intricate the planning is for halftime. I spent the last 16 years in Ohio, where it’s impossible not to hear regularly about Ohio State University. Renowned for its sports teams, OSU is also known for its marching band and its creative halftime shows. One halftime show particularly caught my eye: a tribute to Michael Jackson, in which the band took his shape and proceeded to moonwalk across the field. It was amazing! In a marching band, one individual part may look like random steps, but when put together with all the other parts, the band works together to create an amazing picture. And as the apostle Paul finishes his letter to the Ephesians, he acts like a marching band director choreographing the halftime show. He gives instructions to the Church so that it can faithfully stand as a beacon of peace and righteousness. Today, we’re looking at three things that are necessary to remain standing after all is said and done: The body. The armor. The power.

Let’s read from Ephesians 6:10-20 (CEB):

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.”

Before we get into specifics, let’s look at the overall context of Paul’s letter: Paul writes this to remind the Ephesians of their identity in Christ, their unity as the body of believers—regardless of ethnic or other differences—and to encourage them to live in a way that honors God. The content of the book is split in half: the first three chapters explore the blessings of our life in Christ and how we have been saved by grace through faith; the last three chapters describe how we live as a result of our new life in Christ. After all, when something amazing happens in your life, you live differently.

Before jumping to Ephesians 6, let’s recognize an important aspect of this letter. We often read letters like this, hear the author say “you,” and assume it refers to me as an individual. While it’s true that as an individual believer, I need to follow Scripture, this is not Paul’s primary emphasis. Most of the time, Paul uses the plural form of “you” (“all y’all,” as we say in Kentucky) to address the Ephesians. In other words, these are commands for the church as a whole. God is calling the church to work together and help one another to live faithfully as believers.

As we venture into 6:10, Paul begins to wrap up. He urges the Ephesians to be strong in the Lord’s great strength. This is not a new theme in the book. Paul goes full circle—in 1:19, Paul told the Ephesians that he prays they may know “the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” This is an important reminder—especially for the discussion about evil powers that comes next. We do not rely on our own strength.

Having the correct source of power is incredibly important: If you have a fancy sports car, you’re going to use the best gasoline available. You can’t just pour water in the tank.  And if we’re going to have strength for the battle ahead, we have to rely on the right source of power: God’s power, not our own. Paul is emphatic about this: he repeats the idea of strength three times in a single verse: literally, “strengthen yourselves in the power of his strength.” We need God’s power, not our own, because the battle ahead is a difficult one.

In verses 11-12, Paul calls believers to put on the armor of God, because it is the only way to withstand the evil day. He makes it very clear that we are not simply battling everyday circumstances and temptations; rather, powerful forces exist that in the world that make every effort to derail our walk with God.Paul describes them as rulers, authorities (not government authorities!), cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is a spiritual realm populated by hostile forces that are in opposition to the work of God. Paul’s point here is not to catalog the various kinds of demonic forces. Rather, he emphasizes the spiritual component to the struggles we face.

Yet Paul notes that these spiritual powers are in “the heavenly places.” The Ephesians who have read this letter will recall:

  • 1:3: We have been blessed in Christ “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
  • 1:20-21: Christ sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly places “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”
  • 2:6: We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
  • 3:10: The plan of the mystery of God has been revealed so that through the Church the wisdom of God will be made known to the authorities in the heavenly places.

Paul is urging us to be prepared to fight these forces but not to be afraid. Everything Paul has written to this point in the letter reminds us that Christ’s power is far greater than their power, and we who believe are seated with Christ, far above these lesser powers! Our transformed lives and unity in the body of Christ serve as testimonies to these spiritual beings, that God already has won the victory through Christ.

After digressing to point out who we are fighting (and the ultimate defeat of these spiritual forces), in verses 13-17 Paul returns to call the Ephesians to put on the whole armor of God. Traditionally, these next few verses are read as a call to the individual believer to put on the armor of God, but Paul already told us earlier in the letter who is the body that wears the armor: “And [God] put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

This armor is effective when the whole body takes it up—there is a communal sense. We are not meant to be solitary individuals bearing the armor of God; rather, we are meant to help one another to bear the armor. Like the OSU marching band, in which individuals walk a path laid out for them and together make a unified whole, we who believe work together to provide a unified vision of the life in Christ.

What is this armor? Paul uses military imagery to illustrate preparing for battle, and yet the armor described is used mostly for defense. It is the devil who wages war on us, and our job is to stand our ground, stand firm, and remain standing. We’ve had a lot of hurricanes this season, and I’m always amazed at the weather reporters who stand out in the middle of the storm: they have a job to do and they find a way to stand firm in 70 mile an hour winds.

That’s our job as believers: we don’t go out looking for the battle; we know it will come to us. But New Testament scholar Andrew Lincoln reminds us: “The decisive victory has already been won by God in Christ, and the task of believers is not to win but to stand, that is, to preserve and maintain what has been won.”

Yet we won’t always face a hurricane. Scripture refers to the “schemes” of the devil. Sometimes attacks are powerful because they are subtle, taking us by surprise. Rather than a hurricane, we face a creeping mist that slowly blinds us, leaving us groping in the fog. Whether we face an onslaught of terrible life circumstances or creeping doubt, we have to be prepared to stand firm.

The first two pieces of armor that help us to stand firm are the belt of truth and the breastplate of justice (also translated righteousness). In terms of Roman armor, which is what Paul’s readers would picture, the belt is likely a reference to the leather aprons worn under the armor. This allowed freedom of movement while protecting the thighs. The metal breastplate protects a soldier’s vital organs, such as heart and lungs. When Paul refers to the belt of truth, “truth” has the sense of faithfulness and loyalty to God, and the breastplate of justice (or righteousness) has the nuance of doing what is just or right. We may think of being righteous, but the terminology refers to an action!

Paul does not pull this imagery out of thin air; these pieces of armor are mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. In one case, a messianic figure brings righteousness and faithfulness to those who suffer, particularly the poor (Isa. 11:4-5). In another case, God is offended at the lack of justice in the land, so God himself brings righteousness and justice to the people (Isa 59:15-17). Paul uses this imagery to describe how the church, the body of Christ (you and me!) must wear that same armor in order to fight its battles. The warrior God is a God who cares about righteousness in the land—justice for the poor and oppressed. When we wear God’s armor, we are to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Paul already said this in a different way in Ephesians 4:24 when he called them, “to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Here in our worship space we see the phrase “holiness to the Lord” displayed prominently. It reminds us that we are called to be people set apart for the Lord; we imitate Christ and offer every aspect of our lives to the Lord. We seek holiness in our own lives, and we work in the midst of culture to transform the injustices that we witness around us.

Connected to this righteousness is the imagery of shoes that prepare one to proclaim the Gospel of peace. Paul already wrote about the Gospel that brings peace, declaring in 2:14-16 that Christ is our peace, who destroyed the wall of hostility—the ethnic rivalry—between Jew and Gentile, making all believers one in Christ. And Isaiah connects righteousness with peace in 32:17:

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

When Christians are faithful to God, when we live rightly—in a way that brings about justice to the community—this brings peace. It is common to hear protestors chanting, “No justice, no peace.” This was not an idea created in the 1960s; these protestors cite a biblical theme. It is only when justice pervades the land that peace will exist among us. We must work for justice for those who have been wronged—whether demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, providing aid to the poor in our community who have been overlooked, arguing for the rights of those with disabilities, or protecting others in society.

Next, Paul calls believers to take up the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Roman shields measured about 4’ x 2-1/2’ and were made from wood covered in leather. Paul identifies the shield for Christians as faith. When we trust the message of the Gospel, when we believe that Christ died for our sins, when we know that the Holy Spirit is transforming our lives, then these beliefs extinguish the lies of the devil, when he tries to tell us we’re not worthy, we’re irredeemable, we can never change.

But there’s more to this imagery than standing firm in our faith! Roman soldiers worked together in formation. They brought their shields together in battle so that they could protect one another from literal flaming arrows. This testudo formation (“tortoise” in Latin) created a shield wall—soldiers in the front line held their shields forward; those in the middle held the shields overhead, and those on the sides protected from the sides. Soldiers were far better protected when they worked together.

This underscores the “all y’all” language. Paul encourages us to work together as the body of Christ. It’s the body of Christ together that wears the armor. John Wesley proclaimed that he knew no holiness but social holiness—by which he meant that the body of Christ works together to strengthen each other.

We cannot stand alone in this battle to keep our faith alive and vital. If you help me to strengthen my faith, and I help you to strengthen your faith, then together we are better prepared to withstand the flaming arrows of the devil. We need each other. We are stronger when we are unified.

But our armor is not yet complete. Paul keeps telling us we need the whole armor of God, and armor is incomplete without a helmet and a sword. For the believer, this is the helmet of salvation. Protection comes from knowing that Christ has already won the battle on our behalf. The only offensive weapon for the soldier is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. The term for sword refers to a short sword (about two feet long) that soldiers used for combat in close quarters, where fighting was particularly brutal. The Spirit is the power that makes the sword effective. The “word of God” refers to the gospel message of Christ, laid out for us in Scripture. This sword makes sense as a weapon: when the devil attacks, scheming and lying, the believer’s best counterattack is claiming the truths of the Gospel found in Scripture. Paul gives plenty of these throughout Ephesians:

  • God chose us in Christ (1:4)!
  • God destined us to become adopted as his children (1:5)!
  • We have redemption through the blood of Christ (1:7)!
  • God loves us (2:4)!
  • God saved us (2:5)!
  • God created us for good works (2:10)!
  • God has reconciled us to one another (2:16)!
  • We have access to the Father through the Spirit (2:18)!
  • We are being built into a dwelling place for God (2:22)!

And that’s just the first two chapters. We need to be immersed in the truth of the love of God so that we can stand firm. But Paul is not done yet. Although his armor language ends with the sword of the Spirit, he urges believers to cover the battle in prayer. He started with the command to be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. But how do we find strength in the Lord? We connect to God, submitting ourselves to God’s will, through prayer.

Paul refers to the kind of prayer in which we talk to God and listen to God throughout the day. The way that we keep alert in battle is to be in prayer regularly. This is how we stand firm in the power of God’s mighty strength.

Just like our armor must be worn together, our prayers are offered for each other. Paul begins his letter by praying for the Ephesians, and he ends by asking the Ephesians to pray for all the saints, including Paul himself, who is under arrest for preaching the Gospel. The body that wears God’s armor finds its strength only when it is connected to God whose mighty strength has made the victory possible.

Paul concludes by urging the Ephesians to stand strong. He gives us three keys to remain standing: The body. The armor. The power.

Without the body working together to strengthen each other, gaps in the armor appear; flaming arrows slip through, wreaking havoc. This Christian walk was never meant to be solitary. We encourage each other, building each other up. When you join a church, you learn from small children, middle-aged parents, and elderly saints. You get to speak into their lives and encourage their walk with Christ. Becoming part of committed discipleship groups helps us grow in the faith. John Wesley’s vision of banded discipleship groups recognizes the importance of the body strengthening each other.

To stand strong, we need (say it with me!) the body, the armor, and the power. Without the armor of truth, justice, peace, faith, salvation, and the Spirit-empowered Gospel message, we are susceptible to the lies of the devil, who tells us we’re not loved, we have no value, we have no future. When we live faithfully in God’s truth, when we trust the love of Christ and devote our lives to him, we find that God’s armor holds fast. In wearing God’s armor, we pursue justice in an unjust world, we love and care for the humanity that God fought so hard to save, and we bring light to dark places.

To stand strong, we need the body, the armor, and the power. Without the power of God’s mighty strength, none of us will be able to stand in the evil day. It’s that simple. None of this happens on our own. Regular prayer, individually and together as the body of Christ, connects us to God, whose power is more than enough for the battle we face. Together as the body of Christ, we must seek God’s power to transform the world. To withstand the evil day and to remain standing, we need the body, the armor, and the power. This is Paul’s call to the Ephesians, and it’s God’s call to us today.

Otis T. McMillan ~ What Defines You This Year?

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

The proper appetite is required to be filled: am I hungry enough?

With the disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus, he shared with them key points of his teachings. In this verse, Jesus declares that those that hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled. It brings to mind two questions. First, how large is my appetite? And second, what am I hungry for? Wholeness comes to those who have the proper diet and are not satisfied with just a portion of the meal.

What are you hungry for, what drives you? Your appetite will determine your behavior. If you are seeking to use God to obtain what you want in life apart from his will, you will be left empty. As you commit yourself to pleasing the Lord and give yourself to growth, the end will leave you full. “He that hungers and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”

What a change occurred in Saul’s perspective after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus! Leaving on his journey, he was sure that what he believed was right. When Jesus’ voice pierced Saul’s heart, his whole worldview turned upside-down. Everything Saul thought he knew had to be rethought: his understanding of truth, his worldview, his life mission. This encounter was just the beginning of his transformation from Saul the persecutor to Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. What difference has encountering Jesus made in how you live and lead?

Jesus called his disciples into a life of community. He did that with his first disciples, and he continues to do that today. Following Jesus as our leader is not merely an individual exercise. He calls us into his body, his family. He knows that we will need traveling companions—brothers, sisters, people to encourage us, people to challenge us, people to walk alongside us. Who are you walking alongside today? Who encourages you as you learn to lead like Jesus? Who are you strengthening by your presence?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” — Hebrews 10:24-25

Prayer: Lord, open my mind to see the world from your perspective. Let the reality of your presence reshape my leadership and purpose in life. In your name I pray, amen.

Note: Featured image is an unidentified painting by Piet Mondrian, 1908.

Andy Stoddard ~ Is God Our First Look?

It can be frustrating to do right.  It can be hard to be faithful and to follow God, especially when you see so many others that, in your mind, are not.  We see the wickedness. The greed.  All the things that others are doing wrong.

It can be easy to give up, to say, “why keep trying?”

Why should I work so hard to be faithful when so many others are not? Or it can be easy to harden our hearts against others.  To say, “they are all so wrong, but I am better than others.” It is easy to become like the Pharisee who prayed, “Lord, thank you that I am not a tax collector!”

How do we keep from falling into either of these traps?  Listen to what we are told in Micah 7:4-7:

The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of their sentinels, of their punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household. But as for me, I will look to the LORD, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Micah sees sin and corruption all around.  He sees how so many turn from God.  He sees how so many live opposite of the way that God wants.  It would be easy for him to either give up or harden his heart.  What does he do?

Look at verse 7 – “I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  Micah takes his eyes off of others, he takes his eyes off of himself, he looks at God.

Today, if you feel like giving up, if you question why should you keep trying when no one else even cares – are you looking first to God?

Today, if you feel judgmental towards others – angered at their unrighteousness – are you looking first to God?

Today, is God is our first look?  Do we look to God, do we wait on him, do we turn first to him above looking at others and ourselves? If we keep our eyes on God, above everything and everyone else, we will find our path forward.

We will be able to faithful in a world that doesn’t feel faithful, and we will be able to love those who are walking in ways that we don’t approve.

When we keep our eyes on God first, we find our path forward to live.

Otis T. McMillan ~ Mercy and Righteousness

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

It is common practice to look for personal recommendations before trying something new. Jesus didn’t just recommend leading by serving to his disciples, he lived it in front of them, then commissioned them to follow in his footsteps. He calls us to live humbly with our God, to confidently expect to “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16), and to live for the Father’s approval alone. He tells us that exchanging power-driven leadership for leading by serving is worth it. Do you trust his recommendation? 

“I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

A godly life is a reasonable request: all belongs to God. Hold nothing back. As we seek to understand the mercy of God, which is displayed in his longsuffering towards us, it helps to recognize how much we owe him. It is only a reasonable request that we present all of ourselves to him, displayed in a godly manner. All belongs to God; we ought to hold nothing back.

As we consider our lives, there are possibly areas that we hold back from God or parts that we know are not pleasing to him. As Paul exhorts us to do, present yourself a complete living sacrifice to him. His mercy deserves all of us.

Proverbs 21:21. “He who follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.”

The pathway to honor begins with righteousness and mercy. Respect comes to those who live godly lives.

It is often stated that respect must be earned. The scripture provides us with insight on how to earn it. Those who set their attention not on what the results will be, but commit themselves to follow after righteousness and mercy, will be the recipients of honor . They will find contentment and respect.

As you treat others with mercy, and seek to live a godly life, you will gain the respect of others, as well as find contentment and joy. Doing right and treating others with respect brings a sense of peace and completeness. It allows one, regardless of their current circumstances, to feel complete.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Prayer: Jesus, we trust that your plans for us are for our good and for the Father’s glory. Help us to follow you today, leading others by serving. We pray with confidence in you as the way, the truth and the life. Amen.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ The Promise of Righteousness

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace,
    and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. – Isaiah 32:16-17

The word righteousness isn’t one you see popping up on your Facebook and Twitter feed much these days.

Most people in North America would hear “righteous” and immediately translate it to “self-righteous.” And if there’s any taboo practice in an emerging or present post-Christendom culture, it’s self-righteousness: the inherent judgmental stance against others, in favor of yourself, based on supposed superiority of morality. Perhaps because of it’s very appearance and sound, there’s a halt, a slamming of the brakes. “Righteousness” begins visually and aurally, in English, with “right.” To say definitively that you’re immediately “right” in a pluralistic culture is a non-starter.

Of course “righteousness” doesn’t mean, “I’m right and therefore you’re wrong.” We speak here only of the instinctual response of the casual hearer who didn’t grow up hearing Psalms read from a teacher at the beginning of the public school day. “Righteousness” isn’t in our public vocabulary anymore.

To suggest a neutral or positive understanding of “righteousness” is challenge number one, and immediately we face challenge number two: the assertion that righteousness is the path to peace, that righteousness bears the promise of unsullied community. And yet this is what we read from Isaiah. While Sandra Richter’s powerful new study on Isaiah or John Oswalt’s classic commentary can give deeper insight to this passage, the 21st century reader still can’t escape this basic assertion: “The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

If there is a season in which Americans might be open to reconsidering the promise of righteousness, it might be now: now, when peace, quietness and trust seem long ago and far-off. We hunger for peace, quietness, and trust. A truck plows through families celebrating in France, presidential campaigns are marred by inquiries, lawsuits, violence, and murky business dealings, a man following a law enforcement officer’s instructions is shot and killed in front of a four-year-old child, police officers are targeted and assassinated, a suicide bomber brings death and grief in Syria, and Baghdad, and Kabul, heroin scourges middle America, a teenager shoots up a church Bible study, a hostile nation steals information from our computers, an explosion rocks a German cafe, an agent teaching about cyber sex crimes accidentally catches a predator just in the few minutes she’s on a website during the seminar, a drone attack racks up significant “collateral damage,” a famous reporter admits embellishing an important story, veterans are returning with epidemic levels of PTSD, athletes’ performances are rigged with doping, the Zika virus decimates newborns.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Glean from this verse a few quick observations: that righteousness exists; that righteousness has an effect; and that that effect is profoundly desirable.

In an age of global terrorism, we read: “the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

In the time-worn reality of immoral leaders, we read: “the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

In a century when you can wake up to bad news from all over the world instantly accessible on your nightstand smart phone, we read: “the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

If this is what righteousness brings, it just might be worth pursuing.

Our society is beginning to think that the party might not have been worth the hangover. This is what “outgrowing” the Ten Commandments looks like. As well as shows perform with titles like “Scandal” and “Pretty Little Liars,” everyone really wants their friends to be trustworthy and their enemies to be honest. We want athletes’ performances to be honest (otherwise, what’s the fun of watching sports?), we want leaders who know that they too are under the law, we want our enemies to follow old rules of engagement that attempted to protect civilians from combat rather than deliberately targeting civilians.

In the end, we all really want peace, and trust. As we mature, we realize that the lure of drama to give self-importance is quickly hollow. Who doesn’t want a deep, profound sense of safety? And you cannot have true peace, quietness and trust without righteousness, no matter what a political candidate says.

So the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me” is half right. But peace doesn’t begin with peace. Peace begins with righteousness: submitting to the boundaries of God’s covenant with us. Part of the whole theology of salvation that John Wesley preached to everyone – not just those with a head start in life, not just those with deep pockets who could help fund his ministry, but everyone – is the promise that God’s righteousness is good and just, that God’s righteousness fused with love has poured out to cover our unrighteousness, and that not only is our unrighteousness covered, but it can also be transformed. By God’s grace, we’re not only forgiven our unrighteousness, we empowered to live righteously.

“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Creation groans, we eagerly await the fulfillment of the inbreaking Kingdom of God. Until that Day, we still live in a world with death and tears. But righteousness offers glimmers of that promise.

Do you want to live in a world of peace, quietness and trust?

Put your faith in God, who will bring about his Kingdom where there will be no more crying or tears –

and –

live righteously. Do not covet, do not dishonor the Sabbath, do not give false witness, do not commit adultery, do not take on the name of God flippantly, do not dishonor your parents, and even more than these and the rest, love your enemies, walk farther than you are asked, don’t let your thoughts travel down dangerous roads even if you don’t act on them, think on things that are lovely and true and noble and trustworthy, discern and test, give thanks, pray constantly…

A tall order. “Peace, quietness and trust aren’t possible, because no one can do all that,” you think. In the past one hundred years or so, Americans have set an ever-lowering bar for ourselves, shifting from being at least taught and trained and expected to adopt certain behaviors, to setting the training of our character aside, to saying, finally, that it’s just not possible and those who suggest it is are levying a moralistic power ploy. Make no mistake, as a society we’ve also improved significantly in many areas. But it is difficult to live the Christian life, and it is even more difficult if we do not train the character of our kids, ourselves, and each other.

Righteousness in part is character development. In part, it is accepting the grace of God that melts our hardened spirits and reforms us in Christlikeness. If I want to be part of a culture of righteousness, I must exert my will to pursue individual and communal character development, and I must also accept God’s transforming grace that will shape broken parts of me away from self-destruction and towards the Word Made Flesh.

“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

So what are you doing to live a life of character and grace? Are your words honest and above-board? Do your thoughts betray ego or humility? Do you think certain standards are for others but not yourself? Are you both bold and gentle in your truth-speaking? Do you shift what you say in one context and change it in another, or at a different time, depending on how it serves your current desire?

Because the effect of righteousness? It’s peace. And the result of righteousness? Quietness and trust, forever.