"Righteousness" is a Biblical word - and Biblical words have been expunged from most of American life. Our language is more influenced by technology and the internet than by the dusty pages of a series of books (the Bible is a collection of 66 books) written 2000 years ago. Nevertheless, if we are going to grow in our understanding of God, we are going to have to face the fact that there are some words we have to tackle. So get those pads on. Get on that helmet. Let's hit "righteousness" head on.
"Righteousness" - it has three syllables, and we'll start from the end. "Ness" - what does this suffix mean? It means to be full of something. "Illness" - it means to be full of that which makes you ill. "Greatness" - it means to be full of that which makes you great. You get the idea.
How about "ous?" - what does this mean? It's very similar to "ness," and sometimes it also means to be full of something, but in the case of "righteousness" it simply means to take on that character. "Take on what character?" The character of being "right." So whatever righteousness means, it has something to do with being full of the character of being right. Yet this has nothing to do with being "correct" - as in getting the right answer. Rather, it fundamentally has to do with being in a right relationship with God, and this right relationship with God transforms our character.
For those of you who have been listening to my sermons in church, or online through this website, you know that I have been preaching through Paul's letter to the Galatians. The letter centers on two contrasting ways of living. One way of living is to pursue righteousness through the Mosaic Law (living by a very long list of "do's" and "don'ts" in the Old Testament). The other way of living is to pursue righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. It's the latter that is the Christian way, but notice what both have in common: both pursue righteousness. It's just that in the Christian way, righteousness is a gift (a gift of grace . . . we might say).
In chapter 5 of Galatians Paul uses the word "righteousness" for a second time. The first time is in 2:21 where Paul makes it clear that to rely on grace through faith (rather than the Mosaic Law) is the Christian way:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Yet for our purposes today I want you to notice an interesting dynamic in Galatians 5:5:
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Notice the present and future aspect of Galatians 5:5. "through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait" - this is what is going on right now in our lives. Those who know Jesus Christ have the Spirit of God within them, and the Spirit of God is working within us (He is active!) to give us Christlike character today. Righteousness, being in a right relationship with God, changes us. "Fine. But what does this change look like?" It can be described in many ways (love being the most important change), but in Galatians 5:5 Paul tells us that it orients us toward Christian hope. What is "Christian hope?" It is none other than the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. Don't you want to see Him? He is coming soon! "So Paul . . . what's the point of this 'oh so long' blog?" The point is that God is working in us today so that we can be ready for Him tomorrow. Are you letting Him get you ready? Are you being filled with the character of being right with God? He wants to do that in you today.