What’s Your Preferred Flavor of Righteousness?

Erik Cooper —  August 7, 2013 — 10 Comments

Is it just me, or are a lot of today’s spiritual conversations beginning to mirror mainstream political debates? Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m talking Church structure or U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps advances in technology have simply made long-time arguments easier to engage, but there seems to be a ever-growing list of disputes sparking friction between those of us who call ourselves Christians.

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As a result, the running dialog about “what the Church should really be all about” has started to sound a lot like a FoxNews open forum or CNN partisan debate. And to be perfectly transparent, I’ve probably thrown my support behind almost every talking head’s perspective at one time or another. Some days I feel like a spiritual schizophrenic.

  • “The Church cares too much about weekend services! It’s really all about social justice!”
  • “The Church has let go of her morals! It’s really all about holy behavior!”
  • “The Church is obsessed with crowds! It’s really all about meeting together in homes!”
  • “The Church is becoming a social institution! It’s really all about standing up for godly virtues!
  • “The Church is hungry for money! It’s really all about adopting orphans!”
  • “The Church is too focused on temporal earthly things! It’s really all about eternity!”

It’s really all about…

No, no, it’s really all about…

(I feel like I just transcribed a segment from the O’Reilly Factor).

Now I could make a solid, biblical argument for nearly every one of the above perspectives. The Church is undeniably called to worship, to justice, to holiness, to teaching and relationships and virtue and care for the poor. But our most passionate arguments seem to be triggered by what we’re doing or think others should be doing. Our actions. Our forms. Our behaviors. Our “fruit.”

Let’s be honest, we obsess over our preferred flavor of self-righteousness like opposing political parties. We trade in moralism – all of us do – all the while forgetting the One thing that actually sets us all apart and draws us all together: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – any of us can do to be “more right” with God. Yet that’s what we squabble over the most.

If we all returned to that One uniting “Root,” I wonder how the dialog might change? Is it possible that our petty, political debates over who’s “fruit” is more valid, important, or holy might just melt into a beautiful tapestry of diverse, gospel-fueled expressions?

Right or left. Liberal or conservative. MSNBC or FoxNews. There are plenty of things that provoke our differences, but only one thing that makes us the same: Our undeniable need for a Savior – for a righteousness found outside of ourselves.

Doesn’t make for much of a nightly cable news show, but might make for a more beautiful expression of God’s Kingdom.

“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?”
-1 Corinthians 4:7 MSG

10 responses to What’s Your Preferred Flavor of Righteousness?

  1. Thanks erik,

    I will keep this in mind for sure. After living in Seattle and Boulder we are having a hard time in Florida. The mind sets a bit “different” here. I definitely prefer a very seeker friendly church where I could bring an addict, gay, well, you know imperfect person (as we all are). Somewhere where all sins are truly viewed as equal in Gods eyes. That includes my discontent and coveting of whatever my friends have that I don’t! Anyway, good reminder to focus on my need for God alone.

    • It’s a huge tension Shannon. I feel it, too. I think I go off the rails when I begin “canonizing” my personal preferences, or even my personal passions and convictions. There is one constant, and that is my righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. Appreciate your honesty and participation in the conversation.

  2. Sharon Thomassie August 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t think it is so much a squabble over righteousness as in ‘I have to to this to be right with God;’ as it is a passion to answer a heartfelt call, with the mistaken idea that since ‘I’m called to do this particular thing, you must be also.’ And an ignorance to this verse”…. there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 1 Cor. 12:5-6. I heard a good example of this erroneous thinking recently. “Give of yourself 100% to God by showing up to ………….” The pastor said. I almost called him on it, and probably should have. I think this is an example of one of the ways churches can abuse. Unwittingly perhaps, but still wrong.

    • Good thoughts, and great challenge Sharon. I agree these things often start as questions of heartfelt call, but I think it often morphs into squabbles over righteousness (at least in my world). I know my own propensity to elevate my personal preferences to commandment status, and I do think we begin to evaluate others’ spiritual standing based on these things. With Christ at our central obsession, I truly believe a diverse tapestry of beautiful expressions will be the outflow.

  3. We feel a huge tug of war with these sentiments. We have come to the conclusion that it all matters, but the core truth of what is driving the passion HAS to be that everything that is done and said points back to who Christ is. He is the center, not what topic or ‘area of righteousness’ we deem to be the most passionate about. Thanks for this great post and you are quite the wordsmith!

  4. Perhaps if we spent more time reaching outside of our church walls we wouldn’t focus so much on smaller issues. The mission is to spread the gospel. Let the “experts” blow hot air at each other. Satan would love to see us distracted from following Jesus’ third commandment.

    • True Kevin. And I think the double edged sword is that when we truly grasp the Gospel message, that everything we need and long for has already been provided by means of Jesus Christ, then we are free to live for the other’s good. To love one another. We don’t have to grasp, and manipulate, and strive, and hold on in order to salvage our identity. That’s already been taken care of. That’s why I truly believe an obsessive refocus on the message of the Gospel will pay dividends everywhere. At least I’m beginning to find it true in my life.

  5. I know it’s not the norm to post on a blog that’s over three years old, but I looked this one up today because it perfectly illustrates what I’m teaching in Sunday School tomorrow. I have remembered and referenced this post many times in the last three years and wanted you to know that I appreciate how you put words to something I feel so often.

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