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Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way (or, freedom).
I already did Faith Like Potatoes, so this is Righteousness Like Chili, I guess.
Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way (or, freedom).
Superman fights for truth, justice and the American way (or, freedom). He must have eaten a lot of chili growing up.
The Apostle Paul wrote the greatest treatise on Righteousness - his letter to the Romans.
The Apostle Paul wrote the greatest treatise on righteousness - his letter to the Romans. Righteousness wasn't exactly a Roman virtue.
Martin Luther advocated Righteousness by faith, not works.
Martin Luther advocated righteousness by faith, not works, at a time when the Church was teaching you could do-good your way to Heaven.
Martin Luther advocated Righteousness by faith, not works.
Luther's stand almost cost him his life. His trial took place in the town of Worms in 1521. I wonder if Californians still put worms in their chili.
Jimmy Stewart fights for what's right in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
Jimmy Stewart fights for what's right in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. That's not the Constitution he's holding up.
Eric Liddell honored God, so He honored him.
Eric Liddell honored God with his stand on the Sabbath, so God honored Liddell by making him fast and a champion. (I Samuel 2:30) I don't know what Liddell ate, but it wasn't Wheaties... or chili.
King Arthur wanted a kingdom with laws so there would be justice in the land.
King Arthur wanted a kingdom with laws so there would be justice in the land. What he didn't want was his best friend and wife to cheat on him. They treated him unjustly.
King Arthur wanted a kingdom with laws so there would be justice in the land.
When Jesus cleared the Temple of the money changers, He had righteous anger. What if someone were to do that in the Church today, at one of our pie sales or car washes? We'd have a conniption fit, the way the scribes and Pharisees did. When we believe on Christ, He becomes our Righteousness.


Righteousness: The Twelfth Knightly Virtue

Many theologians scratch their heads over Jesus' clearing the Temple of the money changers. But I say, righteous anger is a glorious thing. Let me explain.

When I was in college, I decided to take a couple years off and do state-side mission work. I was sent to Kansas City, Missouri, where I got a part-time job in the cafeteria at the University. The crew I was attached to had the job of packing up a "portable" cafeteria each day and setting it up for lunch at a satellite location. I don't remember everything we offered, but one of the items was chili. Everyday, after we had set things up, the crew would sit down and have a bowl of chili together.

One day, our boss decided to accompany us on our job. Once everything was ready, I prepared to sit down and have a bowl of chili as usual, when one of the guys took me aside and told me we couldn't do that with the boss around. It was then that I realized we had been doing something we weren't supposed to.

Know what I did? I got a bowl, dished out some chili and sat down. Now, you probably think that was foolish; but I decided I wasn't going to dissemble like the others by acting like we had been doing nothing wrong when I knew we had. I preferred being a fool to being a hypocrite.

What happened after that shows the value of always doing what's right: I was promoted and the rest of the crew was fired. The boss figured I didn't know what I was doing, and was lead into it by the others, who did know better. It was kind of a Joseph story. Now, some of you are going to say, "Yes, but you got the rest of the crew into trouble." No, I didn't - they got themselves into trouble by doing what they knew was wrong. I'm not saying that I was any better than they; but I had come to the place of wanting to do what was right; and my point is this: God looks out for those who do what's right.

Righteousness means "doing what's right" - plain and simple. To be righteous should be the goal of every spiritually-minded person. Righteousness is the other virtue talked about in the book of Proverbs, besides wisdom. It is the most god-like of qualities, besides holiness. It is what God imputed to Abraham, "the Father of all believers," because of his faith. It is the quality the Pharisees envied in Jesus, but never attained themselves. It is what separates "God's people" from everyone else. It is what we as humans subconsciously crave more than anything else.

The opposite of righteousness is sin, and the opposite of a righteous person is a wicked person. Righteousness can also be called "justice," which is what the knights of old called it. "Righteousness" and "justice" are used almost interchangeably in scripture. A just man does what's right, a righteous judge is always just in his judgement. Justice is one of the things God says we should fight for. (Isaiah 1:17; Deuteronomy 10:18, 16:20; etc.)

Like Superman - he fights for truth, justice and the American way (or, freedom). He fights for exactly the same things all the best men and women who have ever lived fought for. Truth is what a free man thinks, justice is what a truthful man does, freedom is what a just man enjoys. The three go hand-in-hand. You lose one of these, you lose all three. If Americans ever lose their love of truth, they'll lose their justice and their freedom. If they ever lose their love for justice, they'll lose freedom and truth. If they lose their love of freedom, they'll lose truth and justice. These are the three things every great civilization, and every great life, is built on.

The reason the German people gave themselves over to Nazism is because they had lost their love of truth. German society preceding WWII was the most decadent and false in their history. Remember the movie Cabaret? Their lack of truth lead to enslavement and the disappearance of justice in Germany during the years 1930-1945. A similar thing happened in Russia following WWI. Due to their hatred of the upper classes, the people lost their love for justice, which eventually lead to enslavement and the disappearance of truth in their land under Communism. The Romans lost their love for freedom under the Republic, which lead to their loss of truth and justice under the Empire. Remember Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" Imperial Romans didn't have a clue.

You can also see this pattern in an individual's life. You stop loving truth, justice or freedom, and you will eventually lose those qualities as an individual. People in abusive relationships know this as reality. People in jobs and careers that control their lives know this. People in addictions or debt know it. People in jail know it all too well.

Always do the right thing - that's a tenet of life. If you always do what's right, you will always be on God's side, which means He will always be on yours. The whole purpose of the Law of Moses was to teach people how to do what was right in every situation. Unfortunately, or fortunately, no one could fulfill that Law - so Jesus came and did it for us. Now, when we believe on Him, as Abraham did, God imputes to us His righteousness, just as He did to Abraham. We are righteous because of Christ.

Now God calls us to live as righteous people - i.e., to always do what's right. Believers could not always do that under Moses' Law - it was too hard. But now we can because Christ infuses us with His Righteousness. We have no more excuses for not doing what's right.

Which brings me back to God's righteous judgement: Christ cleansing the Temple. I really don't think there are any adequate paintings of this, although I've offered one above. It truly was an act of violence. Maybe the scene in the movie Jesus Of Nazareth comes close. The whole point of Christ's coming the first time was to bring God's people to righteousness, so why wouldn't He want the place where God's people gathered to be right and holy as well? The Bible says that one day, Christ is going to come again, not as Savior, but as Judge, and again His purpose will be righteousness. He will be coming to make the place God's people occupy for eternity right and holy. To do that, He will have to cleanse the earth of the wicked, just as the Children of Israel did when they first came to the Promised Land.

We lose so much understanding because of how we've been conditioned by our culture. We either forget or never knew that Noah's flood, the Children of Israel's cleansing of the Promised Land, Hezekiah's cleansing of the Temple, Jesus' cleansing of the Temple, and Christ's cleansing of the earth in the Last Days are all related. God cannot and will not occupy a place that is polluted, nor will He allow His people to do so. Righteous, holy people cannot live permanently in an unbelieving world. So, one day, God is going to change that.

And it will be glorious. The only people who need fear that day are the wicked - those who have not given their lives to Christ.

God and righteous people have righteous anger towards wickedness. If you're a righteous person, nothing should disturb you more than to witness injustice. If you get more upset when someone cuts you off in traffic than when someone is falsely accused, there is something wrong with you. If you don't get angry watching movies about injustice, if you don't get indignant reading about the injustices in the world - angry and indignant to the point of action - something is wrong with you. At least you ought to pray for those people and situations; but you should also do whatever else you can to make them right.

I love to hear about people who are fighting against the injustices of the world - like lawyers that are part of international justice organizations, who go into countries where there is virtually no justice and fight for the rights of individuals and groups, primarily Christians. These are some of the heroes of our time. Remember how Solomon asked God for wisdom so he could judge God's people righteously? I'm afraid most Christians in America today would pray to God for wisdom so they could invest their money properly. That is not why God gives His gifts. He gives them so we can serve others, because it is more blessed to give than to receive.

A lot of people don't like the Book of Revelation. Fire falling from Heaven and destroying the unrighteous isn't something they want to think about. Christ on a white horse lopping off the heads of the unjust isn't politically correct enough for them. But it's coming - a Day is coming when the Righteous One is going to come back in all His glory. He will shine like the sun, and those who have been living in darkness will be exposed - and they'll be destroyed by the brightness of His glory. And we will be by His side on other horses, also lopping off heads, I assume.

Christ is not only the pure, holy lamb of Israel that takes away the sins of the world; He's the righteous, just lion of Judah that destroys the Lord's enemies. He's both gentle and bold, self-sacrificing and destroying. He is the seed that goes into the ground to die to become a new plant; but He's also the Gardener who waters, feeds and destroys the weeds that would hurt the plant. We need to love both sides of Christ - the lamb and the lion, because both are good.

We need to love what is right. If something is right, we need to be willing to fight for it to the bitter end, no matter the cost. I'm not talking about being right. We fight for that all too often. I'm talking about what is right: what God says is right, what He says is just. When you make a deal or a promise, and you realize later that you screwed yourself, you don't run to the lawyers and try to get out of it; you bite the bullet and do what you said you were going to do. Plenty of great men have done that throughout history, at greater cost than you or I will ever face; and they were even greater men afterwards because of it. If only men and women in marriages that aren't working would learn that lesson. Maybe your marriage isn't the bed of roses you had hoped for; but you made a promise, a covenant, for better or worse. And if you honor it, even though it's not fun, you'll be a better man or woman for it because God will honor you. Maybe you'll be the man or woman your children and grand children need. There are more reasons to stay in a marriage than just your own satisfaction.

Growing up, I always heard the expression, "Quitters never win and winners never quit." It's true. You don't win by realizing you made a mistake and backing out; you win by sucking it up, doing your best, and letting God decide the outcome. Plenty of dark horses, plenty of underdogs have ended up in the winner's circle because they didn't give up.

Look at Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Frank Capra's famous film starring Jimmy Stewart, about a simple man that just wanted to do the right thing for boys by building them a camp, but who ended up in Washington going up against a terribly powerful and corrupt political machine. It was David against Goliath. He could have given up. No one would have thought the less of him. But he wouldn't have been the same man if he'd walked away. He had to do what was right to be true to himself.

Take Eric Liddell, the real-life Olympic runner depicted in the movie Chariots Of Fire, who refused to run on Sunday because it would have dishonored God. If he had run, no one would have cared except him and the people who were looking to him as an example, which was mostly boys. But he wouldn't have been the same man after that. He wouldn't have been true to himself, and his life would have been over as far as being an effective witness for Christ.

Doing what's right pays big dividends. It's almost never easy; but it's worth whatever it costs. Wives have tried to talk their husbands out of doing what's right, sometimes for selfish reasons or for expediency sake; but sometimes to save their lives. Take for example the wife in High Noon, who doesn't want her husband, Gary Cooper, the sheriff of a small town, to stand up to a gang of bad guys because he might get killed. But he has to. He wouldn't be the same man, he couldn't live with himself, if he didn't.

"To thine own self be true." Righteousness has a lot to do with that.

"The just shall live by faith." (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) God gave us faith so we could live by it, so we could be righteous people. Nothing is more important. The Pharisees knew that, intellectually - but Jesus lived it. Because of Him, so can we. What is something you can do right now that you've been putting off or avoiding that is the right thing to do? Do it, and you'll be a better man or woman for it, because you will be honoring God. (I Samuel 2:30)


Waitsel Smith, July 29, 2009

Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. Art and photos, © respective artists, publishers and movie studios. All Rights Reserved.

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