The whole point and purpose of the message of “living righteousness” is to produce entirely different people from what they were before, and therefore equally entirely different from the sinful people of the sinful world around us.
And this does not simply mean entirely different so far as outward observances to church standards are concerned. One can do all this and be quite unchanged in nature. In fact some of the greatest crimes of history have been performed by men who were most careful to observe every outward form of religion but who acted out the dictates of hearts and natures filled with jealousy, pride, malice, envy and hatred. The greatest example of all is in the crucifixion of Christ. How much good then did their message and religion do for them?
And how much good has the message of living righteousness done for us?
That is the question!
2 Corinthians 13
5 Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith. Prove your own selves.
Ask yourself very searchingly and carefully if the message has really changed your very nature. Are you finding that you can love all men in spite of what they do to you, or do you find that the way that they treat you, distresses you? Those are the questions to ask yourself and find the answers in yourself.
And that really brings us to the point of the greatest difference between the man of the world and the child of God. The man of the world can be a very nice person. In fact when you go into a business house to do business, especially if you are a person with adequate means and are liable to be purchasing a large amount of goods, then what wonderful treatment you get! But remember that every bit of it is given in the light of what that man hopes to get in return for his kindness.
Now that is the point of it.
Think about it.
Look around you and see that the whole world does only what it does for others, because of what they can get in return. Wealthy people give large sums of money to institutions so that they can become “famous philanthropists.” Business people give you the nicest of treatment so that they can secure your business. In other words they invest their “good” works. The whole thought in mind is as to what they will receive in return. Therefore self is the center and the moving spring of all their actions, and for this reason the good works of the world are sinful and unacceptable to the Lord.
But it shall not be so among you. Christians are to be entirely opposite to this. This is but to say that a Christian goes forth with a heart full of love and gives himself to the other mans great need without the least consideration as to what he shall get in return. In fact he is not concerned as to whether he ever gets anything in return.
But let us see what happens as a usual thing. A person comes into acquaintance with the message and accepts it and there are some wonderful changes made in his life. But the idea of the world is not altogether taken from the mind. However he is now filled with high resolves and he begins to go about and do good to others. And what does he meet?
Well, he expects to meet with warm appreciation for his noble efforts and to find that his fellow men regard him as being a pretty fine fellow. He expects to find appreciation and he expects that the people that he helps will show a great change in their lives too.
But this is not what happens. Instead he finds that he is misunderstood and suspected. Whispering campaigns impugn his best motives and he finds that the good that he has done is requited with evil. He finds that the people that he helped are not grateful, and even use the gifts to selfish purposes. Even the ones closest to him in the group betray him and misunderstand him.
Then he feels hurt and misunderstood and unappreciated. The great thought in his mind if he would only come to really see it is,
“Look at the way they are treating me for all the good that I have tried to do.”
And in making this reaction to the situation he reveals that he is not one little bit better than the world, for this is the way of the world. The basic concern of the world is
“How is he going to treat me?”
And on the assessment of that situation comes the decision as to how he will treat them.
Dear Fellow Believers, how then shall we overcome this terrible situation, this grave and basic fault of the human race?
The answer is that first of all, we must have the clear knowledge in our minds that we are not going to get good for good in this old world, but that we must go out and actually expect that we will get almost only evil for the good that we do.
We must get it clear in mind that the very people that we expect most of all to be kind and nice to us are the very ones that will betray us and put us into deep trouble. And they will. Face the fact before you even begin, that that is what is most certainly coming to you.
Then, when it happens exactly as you now know that it will, you will be neither surprised nor disappointed. You will not be shattered nor offended. This is but the lot of every true Christian while he remains in this sinful world. That is the way that it is, so simply accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it.
On the other hand one may argue that, seeing then that we know that we shall only gain evil for good, then why not retreat into our own little corner, and live our own lives apart from the ungrateful race of men. And should you think that way and feel that way, then just stop and reflect on the place where you would be if God had taken that attitude to the problem. You cannot do it for it is worldly and of the world to do it that way. It just simply is not Christianity.
So let us have it forever settled in our minds that it is not a matter of the least concern to us as to how we are treated. Our only concern, the only thing that we will have to answer for in the judgment is as to how we have treated others.
In all this we have the example of Jesus, and inasmuch as He came to show us how to live then what He did we too are to do. And you will see if you study His whole life through, that
“He came not to be ministered unto but to minister.”
You will see that for the whole of His earthly sojourn, He gave Himself daily to the needs and wants of a perishing humanity. Yet what do we find that He received in return? Was He understood and appreciated? Did all those to whom He gave Himself make the best use of the gift? No indeed! Far from it. Instead we find that He was abused, threatened, pursued, hated, smeared and finally deserted by the men who were His closest companions, the ones that were the very “best” members of His church.
Now look the whole of the story through and not once do we find that there was the least resentment on His part, nor the faintest giving to discouragement. Of Him it is written,
4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged.
Find, if you can, a single instance when He said,
“Just look at the way that they are treating me!”
You will not find it. It is just nowhere to be found, for the thought never entered His mind. All that He could ever see was the great and pressing need, and without thought or regard as to whether He was ever understood or appreciated He gave Himself completely to the task of saving humanity.
This is Christianity.
But it is not the world or of the world.
It is unworldly.
And when we see it then we are truly seeing the message in action.
Now in all the above we have spoken of essential mental attitudes, of requisite knowledge. But remember, no matter how fixed your mental attitude to the problem is, unless you have a heart with the capacity to love, then you will still not see the message in action.
To get a loving heart requires that any response from ourselves that is evil be recognised as such, be wholly confessed as being a true picture of what I am, a giving of it entirely over to the Lord and a receiving by faith of a new heart altogether. And when this is done the new heart and the new life must be cherished and developed.
Then when we have that heart of love and the mind to love, then we shall truly see the message in action.
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
Other articles by F.T. Wright:
- The Parables of Matthew 22 & 25 as Revealed in the Old Testament
- Forsaking the Holy Covenant
- Churchcraft and Statecraft, part 1
- God’s Eternal Purpose
- Why Jesus Came
- A Powerful Argument
- Covered Sin
- The Personality of the Holy Spirit
- The Number 666, part 2
- Righteousness by Faith in the Book of Job
- Wheat and Tares
- The Hidden Ark
- The Path of the Just
- Point of No Return
- Why a Detached Fourth Angel