My wife and Rose Marie Miller are the two women in my life pointing me again and again to the gospel. Dave and Barb Bindewald too. Our associate pastor Dave said over a pot of coffee and cookies one late night in our apartment about the great exchange in 2 Corinthians 5.21, ‘We usually get the first part at conversion, that Christ took our sins. But the second, that we gain Christ’s righteousness, well many of us will never get that.’
I thought, It sounds pretty straightforward to me. I get the accounting business of debits and credits. I wouldn’t dare speak of my own righteousness. My problem is not that I think that I have a righteousness of my own but that I don’t feel as deeply as my theology might indicate.
That was partly true. I really do know the right answer about the exchange that’s taken place in the gospel. But its not just my feelings that haven’t followed in suit – my whole life betrays a self-righteousness and I’ve been blind to it.
Self-righteousness is being shocked by the evil I see in others. It is a flat denial of those very sins dwelling deep in my own heart. It feeds a critical spirit, rabid cynicism, gossip, slander, and pride. I build a false record inwardly.
Self-righteousness is avoiding transparency, evading confessing my sins to brothers let alone repenting when I wrong others; it’s bristling at gentle correction and an eagerness to defend myself. It seldom fully forgives. It revels in being thought well of, being admired, being needed. I build a false record outwardly.
Self-righteousness is calling sin a ‘mistake.’ It’s presuming upon Christ’s forgiveness rather than seeking it. It makes for shallow times of repentance, vague references to broad sins, and a cross-less confession. With little sin I need a little Savior with a little gospel to make up the difference between a holy God and myself. I build a false record upwardly.
To myself, to others, to God – my presumptive righteousness demands so much of me and returns so little.
“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Gal 4.26)