Dear Friends in Christ,
Righteous is not a word we often hear these days except as a form of condemnation when we say that someone is self-righteous, but the concept of righteousness must be a central part of any attempt to describe and lead a life that is truly good rather than evil or wicked. The word righteous entered the English language in the early 16th century as a way to translate the Greek word dikaios, which appears 74 times in the New Testament, 25 of those being found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Righteous and dikaios mean to act in accord with the eternal law of God, to be free from sin, and to be innocent of wrongdoing. And what the Word of God reveals to us is that righteousness is found only in Jesus Christ and that we become righteous only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Do a word search online or consult a Bible concordance for the words righteous and righteousness to see the many verses of Holy Scripture which describe what righteousness is and how we find it. A life without righteousness is a life without clear meaning, direction, or hope for anything beyond the grave, and a quick glance at the nihilism and chaos in the world provides clear confirmation of what the absence of righteousness does both to individual lives and to entire societies.
We live in a time of unimaginable prosperity and technical mastery over the material world, but we also live in such spiritual and cultural darkness that we can no longer name the differences between boys and girls without breaking laws erected by the dictatorship of relativism. Our machines probe the mysteries of the cosmos, but our souls are so shriveled that death by despair (suicide and overdose) is now so common that our average lifespan has contracted for the first time in a century. Our leaders in every sphere of human activity, including religion, are largely aimless, graceless, and feckless, and their schemes for restoring good order in human affairs are usually pointless. We live in the midst of lawlessness and hopelessness because we live in a time of unrighteousness. So what do we do? What can we do? We can hear and heed the Word of God.
“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These words of the Lord Jesus (Mark 1.15) are as urgent for us today as they were when first proclaimed in Galilee two millennia ago. Societies, cultures, and entire civilizations are shaped one life at a time, and that is how disciples of the Lord Jesus are also formed – one at a time. Lent begins this Wednesday, and we have a new opportunity to decide again to follow the Lord Jesus by repenting of our sins and believing in the Gospel. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.8-9)