Tag Archives: justice

The Biology of Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6, NIV)

bee drinking nectar from fruit blossomWhen I’m hungry or thirsty, I usually don’t think of righteousness as something that would satisfy. A cup of coffee and a burrito, maybe! And, what is righteousness, anyway?! As you can see, I’ve been stumped by Jesus’ saying here. The more I thought about it, the more questions I had.
   • What is righteousness?
   • What does it mean to be filled or satisfied?
   • Why does Jesus use biological terms for a
seemingly spiritual activity?

These questions, and more, led me to some surprising conclusions. At least I didn’t see them coming!

The biggest hurdle for me was the aspect of righteousness and how it can be fulfilling. The most common definition I’ve heard in church is “the state of being in proper relationship with God.” This is a fine definition, but it didn’t seem to mesh for me with the idea of hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are earthy terms. This definition of righteousness spiritual, positional, and abstract. I felt like I needed a definition of righteousness that had feet to it. Then this passage came to mind.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8, NKJV)

To be righteous is to do rightly with a view to justice, mercy, and humility. Logically speaking, it just feels good when we do good. It is satisfying feeling we get when we have just helped someone.

What does Jesus mean when he blesses those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness?” When we are hungry, we usually know what we want to eat. We can see it. We know what it tastes like. It’s something that lives inside of us before we even get a chance to do it. We see rightly before we do rightly. We know what it looks like, and we want to see it happen. Seeing the kingdom of God lived out in our world only happens when we see it lived out in us. To quote Josh Pinkston, quoting Jesus, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

So in wrapping my brain around Jesus’ words here I find that the satisfaction of righteousness is not static, but dynamic. It is alive like our appetites. The more we do rightly the more we are hungry to do it again. This doing comes from seeing what the world could look like when we all do rightly, justly, and filled with mercy and humility. I hope you can see it, just as I long to see it!

Grace and peace,

Embracing Hope

Every year I write an Advent devotional for each of the four weeks of Advent. I usually employ some sort of traditional pattern along with a theme to walk us toward Christmas. This year I will continue the theme of Embracing with the pattern of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

photo credit – Josh Pinkston

photo credit – Josh Pinkston

When we look at the nativity story of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we see that Jesus was the fulfillment of Israel’s hope for a messiah. This messiah would be a king from the family of David who would establish justice and righteousness for Israel and all those who align themselves with this king. Jesus accomplished this, just not in the way they had expected. The Jews were looking for messiah to bring a national deliverance from the oppressive Roman regime. Instead, Jesus brought deliverance to individuals who collectively and over many years changed the world.

The church today continues to carry this hope into the world. It is a hope for resurrection that all things would be made new. It is a hope for justice that all things would be made right. It is a hope for deliverance that all would be made free, not just free from something, but free for something. Lastly it is a hope for love that through love all things would be restored and made whole again.

Recently at the conclusion of one of our community classes, a conversation begun with the students, the instructor, and others in the room. It was a vulnerable conversation about sad and painful things happening in their lives and in the lives of others they love. It became a moment in which the only appropriate thing to do was listen, acknowledge, and feel. Those that were there knew that the best way to share hope was to simply share their presence.

Hope is not just a dreamy-eyed notion that somehow, someday, everything will be alright. Hope is a substantive belief that we engage through faith. It is the knowing that in Christ resurrection, justice, freedom, and love are all a reality. We know this because we have seen it in Jesus, have experienced it through God’s presence in our lives, and through the love of God’s people.

“Hope is really hope when all seems hopeless.” John Caputo*

This is not to say that since I have Jesus in my life that everything is just peachy all the time. I am currently walking through a season in which I feel that I have lost hope for a number of things and in a number of circumstances. Some days all I can do is receive love from those who love me, trust that God is there, with and within me, and lay my hope down in hope that through all these things it will become hope again.

It is in these times when my hope is challenged that I realize that hope is not something I can muster or conjure up. It comes to me through the love and presence of God and people. Hope is a gift we hold up and hold out.

As we reconnect with the story of hope this Christmas, I pray that we become agents of hope for those around us, believing for them the realization of resurrection, justice, freedom, and love.

Grace and peace,

* From a Homebrewed Christianity interview with John Caputo. Minute 32:00-35:00