July 19, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says the Lord. ‘My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you. My words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 59.21)
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become [clothed with] the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5.21)
Are we dressed for success as mighty ones of God and followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth? It used to be that “dressed for success” had that certain formal appearance of the parenthetical “suit and tie.” But, the boardroom has changed in the last forty years. Now it seems that “dressed for success” means matching the image and the audience which is your “business.” The appearance may have that certain appeal to the “buying” public which garners a niche in the marketplace, but who is dictating what? In the attempt to gain the attention of seekers, followers and supporters there has been a lot of surrendering to the public domain. In my day that would have been called “letting the tail wag the dog.” Jesus may have called it being in the world as if you are of the world. The truth of the matter is that none of us are made “of the world.” We are made “of the earth.” The two are not synonymous but they operate within the same realm. To be “of the world” is to be of the culture and climate of the human community, such as it is. To be “in the world” means to live, work and recreate within the community of people around us. To be “of the earth” is a reminder that we are created by a force greater than ourselves who gives immutable meaning and purpose to life. To be “of the earth and in the world” leads us to consider our walk of faith as those who are “of God” who dwell among the people who are of the world. There is another option, of course, which defines our identity as does “those of the Kingdom on earth and in the world.” These are the movers and shakers of righteous faith. They are reborn in spirit and in truth because they put their trust in the Lord and lean not on their own understanding. The Word of God guides the formation of their life and their activity in the world. The Word of God also assists in protecting that life from falling into the chaos of being “outside the Kingdom of God on earth.” We should take our “spiritual fashion” cues from the Word of God and not the word of humanity as the true definition of who and what we are.
What does that “spiritual fashion” look look like? As we look throughout scripture we will find it described as being clothed in righteousness. It is not so much an apparel we would put on our bodies, as God made for Adam and Eve. There are some who have determined that a particular look speaks to the appearance of one who is righteous. Sadly, we have learned that there have been more exceptions to the rule than we should like. For example, the Amish and Mennonite faiths are easily recognizable by their “fashion” ware. Those who serve in the Catholic Church such as priests and nuns or some other faith traditions such as Lutherans, A.M.E. and Episcopalians are easily recognizable by their assigned dress code such as a clergy collar. It says “I am in the world but I am not of it.” However, among the modern, non-denominational, evangelical faith communities, one will find that there is little different in what is worn to set one apart from the world. And I get the push that “clothes do not make the person” mentality has an appeal of getting next to the people served. I dare say it does so springing up out of the fear of what people think about the Church as it started to look more like the world than the kingdom of God. We have this “I don’t want to be THAT Church” look. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater was never a good solution to careless problem solving. Yes, God can use all types of people wearing all kinds of clothes bearing all kinds of accessories to do His will. But, God makes the determination of what our real appearance should be and not the world. The world does not define righteousness to the level of eternal approval or accomplishment. Nor does the earth. Only God knows truly what righteousness sounds like, feels like, acts like and looks like. As mighty ones of God and followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, we are intended and expected to be different than the world. We are called to be “clothed with righteousness.”
So, what is righteousness? Well, we have to begin by contextualizing our understanding of how to answer that question. The “of the world” answer would lead us to say “that which is morally good, right and/or fair.” In today’s world just about anything can and has been determined to be “morally good.” Why is that? I have the sneaking suspicion that it does because the baseline for such a determination is founded on “what is right and good for me.” It doesn’t take long to read through social media and find justifications for all kinds of thoughts, ideas and activities. The power of “because I said so” has been shown to be a great failure to understand what is “right and good.” So, we can hear a compliment given to someone for whatever they may have done that was pleasing to them as being “righteous.” We can even hear the urging of others to follow in the same direction as “let’s get righteous.” While it seems there is no end to this misuse of the word, trust me, there is an end coming when the “true” righteousness shall appear. How will the world measure up to that truth? If it would accept the truth, the world will find itself woefully lacking. The measure of success by which the world operates today is seriously dependent on time and place. Success in this world by the world’s standards is not a “forever” reality. It is not the same yesterday, today and forever. Of that measure, there is only ONE and it is the true righteousness.
Let’s reflect on that thought tomorrow as we pursue being clothed in righteousness before humanity and God. Until then, shalom.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
God, You have made us. You have formed us. You have shaped us. You have called us into being. You have placed before us the measure of truth; what is right, good, valuable and worthy. It stands before us and with us so that we might not only see it but accept it as a measure for our own lives. While we may fall short of what You intend, it does not keep us from striving toward the perfection which has been shown to us in Your Word- especially Your Word which is the Christ. We thank You for speaking into our lives continually the words of encouragement to be of Your will, to do Your will and to guide others in surrender their will to You for the spiritual welfare of their lives. We hear, listen and follow in Jesus’ name. AMEN.