There are loads of assumptions in our Christian culture about who the righteous are; who the right ones are. There is an innate evangelical obsession to establish a status of who’s right and who’s wrong before the eyes of an all-watching God.
The Clamoring Question
I believe this emotional paranoia was just as much a heated concern in the 1st Century world of Jesus as it is today. By the time Jesus arrives on the seen there were 613 Rabbinic laws on how to be “right before God.” This is an obvious question we are all bothered and tormented by; “Am I right? Are they right? Am I wrong, Are they wrong?” These clamoring questions are running rampant in so much of our cultures discourse and dialogue today. We don’t seem to have another framework for interacting with the circumstances in our world. This is what we sift everything through “what is the right or wrong way to do something.” Or “what is the right or wrong way to think.” It seems quite natural to primarily be concerned with this matter. Who wants to be wrong…I sure don’t.
Who’s On God’s Side
We assume a tight connection between those who are right and those who have God on their side. The challenge to this pragmatic way of interfacing with God and our culture isJesus. Jesus has a habit of exposing the deeper reality that those who assume God is on their side probably have the answer wrong. He also repeatedly unveils the pattern that those who are really righteous don’t often know they are righteous.
Jesus says “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” This can be a bit frustrating to interact with. Jesus doesn’t give 5 ways to fix your life or 3 ways to get God on your side or 10 steps to a better whatever. I don’t think Jesus’ preaching style would light up the iTunes podcast’s here. His statement here is cryptically illuminating about God’s angle on things. It gives us a God’s eye view on this human concern. God is not obsessed with us being right as much as we are. Actually he’s quite passionate about something else entirely, what we “hunger and thirst for.” He is answering a different question that we are not concerned enough to ask. He pushes past our agendas to be “in the right.” In contrast, when he says “those who hunger and thirst” he is placing his finger on our inner longings, desires, motivations, ambitions and holistically, the state of our affections.
I’m convinced Jesus understood the mechanics of the heart’s affections; that a heart oriented around a desperate longing for God and His Justice is an others-centered heart, which is a ripe space for Kingdom living. I’m convinced it doesn’t work the other way around. My observance has been that those who live by the plumb-line of orienting firstaround right living, cultivate a self-centered heart which is a conducive space for pride, appearance, fear, judgement and status all under the auspices of pleasing God. Practically this approach is an ethic that doesn’t loose sleep over motivations as long as you’re doing the right things, then God will bless you.
Jesus is beginning to unveil a new way his Kingdom will situate itself in the midst of this world. It will have a different ethic and a more subversive way of dwelling. It will not be obsessively concerned with the litmus of right or wrong. It will not find it’s voice in screaming as loud as the rest of the world in this arena. Instead it will find its distinctiveness in what we long for, ache for, weep for, love for, burden for. Jesus wants to disciple the transformation of our raw affections.