For Righteousness’ Sake
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
All Saints Sunday, A
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
When I was younger, it was a given that if any kind of mischief was going to be done, it would be done on or near Halloween. Nowadays, the once shenanigans of Halloween seems to be a calm refuge from the never ending chaos of nearly every other night of the year. Maybe you have begun to notice the trend on your daily news stories. Every day seems to highlight another group staging protests which turn into riots, or demonstrations that turn into squatter’s camps. Marches go from getting a message out to attacking anyone with a different take on the issue in mere minutes. Blockades, vandalism, property damage and regular looting are the order of the day. But why?
Are we just so much more wicked as a people now? Has our culture degraded past the point of return? Do people just want to see the world burn? Well, there will always be the very odd few who do, but for the most part I think the reason is actually quite different. There is a never-ending sense of unrest in our society these days because so many people in our day and age hunger and thirst for righteousness! Yes, that’s what I said. It is all being done for righteousness’ sake. The SJW’s, the feminists, the BLM movement, and environmental protesters do what they do because they are trying to make the world better through their righteous zeal! So why, then, does it all seem to turn out so wrong? Because, like so many in our culture who have left God behind, they have no idea what true righteousness is!
And nowhere in all of this class struggle, race struggle, and ideological struggle is this more evident than in the underlying concept of the cancel culture we now find ourselves in. Time and time again, when people bring up their grievances over the injustices of our world, those grievances cannot and will not be satisfied. The sad fact that many are now coming to realize is that no matter how much guilt you confess and how much remorse you show you cannot and will not ever be forgiven what was deemed your unrighteous attitude or actions. Consider the perennial call to boycotts, the steady stream of statue toppling, and the favoured strong-arm tactic of “doxing” that is giving out a person’s personal information so that everyone may take turns harassing and haranguing them for their apparent sin. The mob moves from one target to the next, never satisfied, never forgiving, never once accountable for their own sins. A hunger and thirst for righteousness without an understanding of what righteousness is makes for a truly hellish world!
So what should we hunger and thirst for instead? What is that true righteousness for which we are to strive? The Beatitudes, from our Gospel reading, show us that true righteousness is found in Christ Jesus! 1Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
And here, dear saints, is the kick in the pants. The first step to righteousness is to understand that you ain’t it! There are no blessed zealots, perfectionists, or serial complainers. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, means blessed is the man or woman who understand that he or she is the sinner! Blessed is the one who mourns over not the world’s sins, but my own faults, my culpability, my problem. The systemic problems all lie within the individual, not anywhere else, and that systemic failure is sin. Blessed are those, then, who knowing this are Meek before God and Christ. No demands. No calls for justice (which would only spell our own doom). No putting ourselves on a pedestal from which we give ourselves the right to judge and condemn the short-comings of the world around us. Just a repentant heart that calls upon the Lord and Saviour of the world to show us mercy despite our own depravity. This is what sets the saints apart from the rest of this world. Not that they don’t also hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake, but we hunger and thirst for that which is truly righteous!
It is not what many would consider the defining trait of the Holy Saints, yet there it is. Only once we see just how unrighteous we are can we then see and rejoice in how God fulfilled this righteousness for us in Jesus! 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Who is more merciful than our Lord Jesus Christ? He is the one who willingly gave up His precious holy life for us sinners, by dying on the cross! The sin is ours, the death should be ours, the pain and suffering we alone deserve. Yet He suffered it all gladly so that we might never have to. Who but our Lord Jesus Christ is truly Pure in heart? Not only did He have no sin at all in His life or on His part, but He really and truly rejoices in sinners forgiven! The thought of sins forgiven made the horrible cross His joy Scriptures tell us. And finally, who but our Lord Jesus Christ can be genuinely heralded as Peace maker? For who, like Him, has ever been able to bring about the ultimate peace – between God and Man? A peace forged in life and death, signed with His own body and blood. Delivered in the resurrection and the promise of His glorious return. Jesus Christ, and Christ alone is our righteousness, and all that He did, does, and ever will do is for our righteousness’ sake!
And now made saints in this same Jesus we can do the same for righteousness’ sake. In Christ we Saints of the Lord can have an attitude that seeks that peace which passes all human understanding. That peace in Christ that bridges all cultures and divides! Yes, we can show mercy to other sinners, even those we think are tearing our society apart. Mercy even to those who show none in return. We can speak the truth in love and just as importantly we can love in truth, especially when it is hard. For righteousness’ sake we can have hearts in Christ that not only seek forgiveness for both ourselves and others but that truly rejoice when it comes! Just think how much more heavenly our world will be when the Holy Spirit helps us do this for Righteousness’ Sake.