Tuesday, September 19, 2006

God Righteousness: A Liberal View on Pauls Story of Salavtion and Gods Righteousness

Righteousness is a misunderstood and loaded theological term in Christian circles today. It has been smudged by Christian interpretations over the century's and its meaning has been changed to the point that maybe Christians have forgotten its true meaning and how it explains Gods character in this day and age. God ‘s righteousness has been explained in terms of his righteous anger and Judgment, and the punishment of sin, rather than seeing Gods righteousness as the ultimate example of Gods love and mercy for humanity and Gods longing the restore right relationship with humanity. Ultimately God wants right relationship with humanity, but also to see humanity restore right relationships with each other, an world in which peace and justice reign – the new age.

Gods promise of Righteousness
The Story of the Old Testament scriptures of how a perfect world that God created was put into chaos by the reign of sin. God’s goal for the whole of creation is shalom, that is making everything right once again and put creation back into order according to Gods perfect plan. In the Old Testament God chooses the people of Israel to fulfill his plan and bring the world back to shalom. God’s righteousness to all people will be shown through his covenantal faithfulness to Israel. In Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between Israel and God, a covenant is a lasting relationship set on a long-term commitment, they had to be obedient to the mosaic law to that their covenantal relationship with God would be maintained. The Problem is for Paul and others that Gods righteousness hasn't been shown through Israel, the dream of the Jewish people hadn't been fulfilled, indeed a whole lot of catastrophes had come along the way and Israel was under the control of a Pagan empire at the time that Paul wrote.

For Jews, Gods Justice is central to understanding their world view. Something has gone terribly wrong in the world and Gods righteousness is the rectifying power which will accomplish justice and shalom on Earth. In Jewish theology this represented the coming age and the victory of God on Earth over sin and death. Paul reinterprets this in view of the Christ event. Jesus comes to earth, lives an obedient life to God, proclaiming Gods righteousness, and the coming of Gods righteousness to all. He lives this obedient life to the point of a humiliating death on the cross and then God raises and exalts him as Lord above all, and name above all names (Phil 2:6-11). Through Jesus' death on the cross, all creation can be repaired and brought back into shalom. Paul Sees the Christ even as restoring Israel and all nations into right covenantal relationship with God.

Gods Justice is active and restorative. The Focus in the bible is on doing justice rather than the way that western societies think of enacting justice through a law court. For example, the Jewish people are to follow the ethical and religious activities prescribed by the mosaic covenant. To be righteous is to be faithful to the covenant that God has put in place. To be unrighteous is to break this covenant, thus being unrighteous, not caring for the broken hearted, the poor in spirit, putting ourselves first and not loving others. Following the pattern prescribed by the covenant is to live in shalom. When the covenant is broken, covenant justice is fulfilled though not by punishment like we have in western court systems, but by the restoration of shalom – through repentance. Pain might be inflicted, but this is a consequence of the failure, a result of not following the right order (If you don't wear a seatbelt and you crash you are going to suffer the consequences.) God is continually faithful and merciful to his people and is active in restoring the relationship with his people. No matter what Israel does, God still leaves room for them to repent and restore relationship once again.

Christians are supposed to enact Gods righteousness in their own life. Many times Christians have been so focused on justification by faith and being against legalism, that we have forgotten that one of our main aims is to live lives that enact justice in this world, based on a holistic view of creation rather than one based on crime and punishment. Christians aim is to be in partnership with Gods will and Gods restorative justice. Obedience to Gods will is about enacting shalom. It is not a way of gaining salvation but about being relationship with God and fulfilling his plan for this world. Christians can bring about an aspect of shalom in their own life by this and fulfilling social justice. Christians should be looking for ways that they can liberate the oppressed and show them the good news, so that the whole world will be blessed through Gods righteousness shown through Christians. We should also be willing to forgive our neighbors, not willing to get even, but to get right with them, restoring relationship with them. How much better would the world be if we saw people seek forgiveness rather than retribution for past wrongs; we wouldn't have had the wars between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, or the wars between the Hutus and Tutsis. We would see the fulfillment of shalom, rather than its undermining. This is a radical call to change our relationships between one another for peace on earth.

No comments: