Righteousness – what does it mean and why is it so important?

 Righteousness is important because it would create the greatest revolution this world has ever seen. That’s because of what righteousness is: according to 1 John 3:7, “He who does what is right is righteous, just as he (Jesus) is righteous.” Simply put, then, righteousness means doing what’s right just as Jesus does.  

And would that create the greatest revolution this world has ever seen? Yes, because righteousness by John’s definition has never been done by humanity as a whole. Instead we’ve “all sinned” (Romans 3:23), and according to 1 John 3:4, “sin is lawlessness.” So, instead of all us humans doing what is right, we fell short of that and became lawless. Whereas in Jesus, verse 5, there “is no sin.” If we were all like Jesus, then, we wouldn’t be lawless, and what would the world be like then?

Well, that’s what Jesus is bringing about, because there’s no way we can do it. Our inability to even do what WE define as right is clearly demonstrated in the mess we and our planet are in. “But,” verse 5, “he (Jesus) appeared so that he might take away our sins.” So Jesus came to do away with our lawlessness and our inability “to do what’s right.” And this is how he turns our world right side up, which we’ve never been able to do. 

But how does he deal with our inability to do what is right? Again, John explains, in verse 6: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” The key to solving our inability to do what is right, then, is us “living in Jesus,” so what does that mean?  

Fortunately, John takes the time to explain that too, starting in verse 9: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” In other words, it’s possible for us to be righteous like Jesus is, with the same desire and ability to do what’s right that he has, because God made us his children too. We have the same “God-seed” in us, therefore, that Jesus has, so that we can live how Jesus lives.

John is thrilled by this, as we see in verse 1, when he writes, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God,” because “that is what we are.” And being God’s children, born of his seed, we are now in the same marvellous position as Jesus is, being able to think and do what’s right just as he does.  

That’s what God has made possible, so that whatever Jesus taught and how Jesus lived we can live those things too. And by living as he did, or “obeying his commands,” as John put it in 1 John 2:3, “This is how we know we are in himverse 5

John spells it out so clearly in verse 6, that  “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” – but in recognition now that we CAN now walk like Jesus because, like him, we are God’s children too. Or as John puts it in verse 29, “everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” 

It goes both ways, then: if we’re born of him we can do what is right, and if we do what is right it’s proof we are born of him. Either way it means righteousness is within our grasp, which has to be thrilling, because it’s through righteousness that Jesus is bringing about the greatest revolution this world has ever seen.

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