How many times have we witnessed this scenario? A colleague or acquaintance is well thought of as a highly ethical person, a Christian perhaps, a living example of “do the right thing.” Then one day our model citizen slips on a moral banana peel, speaking ill of someone behind their back, for instance, or playing the nasty political card at work. Then invariably, someone—could be us—says this: “Now we know the real [insert name here].” Despite all the goodwill they have amassed through right decisions, we regard their wrong as the sole determinant of their true self.
Why do we seize upon people’s mistakes like this? Why do we discard in an instant the good reputation painstakingly built over the course of a lifetime? Is it that we think ourselves more attractive beside a morally blemished neighbor? Does our pronouncement arise from a deep sense of cynicism, our hope for good shattered yet again? It could be a lot of things, I suppose, for we all yearn for a rightness we can trust, elusive though it seems.
We do well to know what is right and to want what is right, but it is not ours to judge the wrongs of others. This is God’s job, and His alone. Moreover, we cannot muster from within ourselves the righteousness we crave; this, too, is God’s job, for Christ has taken our sin upon Himself and given us, in exchange, His own righteousness.1 This is His gift to all who receive it through faith.
Then to anyone who would define God’s people by the sins Jesus already died to forgive, He says this on our behalf: “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. . . He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.”2
If you are in Christ, then insert your name here, for He defines the real you.
Father, in truth you see my darkness, and in love you’ve become my light. By your sacrifice, I know your righteousness. Fill me to overflowing in grace, so others may know it, too. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.
Christ in me is righteousness.
1 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Micah 7:8, 9