During a recent trip I chatted with a friend about what it looks like to be a righteous man. He had searched the Bible for a description of righteousness and found a useful list where Titus outlines qualities of Christian leaders, “He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:7-8) It’s a helpful list of attitudes and actions to avoid and to adopt.
Of course a righteous person avoids things like:
- Arrogance (missed that one)
- A quick temper (ouch!)
- Violence (public or private),
- The idol of gain—whether financial, power, success, or reputation.
A righteous man or woman should also increasingly live out the positive qualities on this list:
- Hospitality (devoted to the welfare of others)
- Generosity instead of stingy
- Uprightness—being and doing what God requires.
- Holiness (dedicated to God and his will)
- Disciplined (exercising self-control in our lives)
As my friend shared his list and his thoughts on it, his passion moved me. He convicted me of my own need for righteousness and a greater desire for it. But, I was also troubled by this list of righteous attitudes and actions. Something didn’t sit right with me. If Christian righteousness amounts to a list of qualities to attitudes and actions to avoid and to adopt, what does it mean if I struggle to avoid and adopt those attitudes and actions?
But Titus’s list won’t make us righteous men or women. This list describes one who has trusted in The Righteous Man, Jesus. Righteousness begins with Jesus and not with us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
The phrase “being justified by his grace” means “made righteous” by his grace! Titus’s list about righteousness assumes our trust in The Righteous Man and his mercy!
Here’s the thing. I know the Christian life is about trusting The Righteous Man rather than making myself righteous. But, do I trust The Righteous Man, or do I strive to prove my righteousness to God and myself and others? If I’m honest, I depend on myself. I trust my education, I trust my good intentions, I trust my service to God and much else besides. If I am to grow in righteousness, I must grow in my trust in “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior,” The Righteous Man.
In what ways do you struggle to trust in The Righteous Man rather than your own righteousness?