Characteristics of Christ | RIGHTEOUSNESS

A 40 Day Journey to Becoming Like the One We Follow

Day 14: Righteousness (Matthew 5:6)

We all know the world is busted. We know governments and politicians are corrupt. We know our justice system can be anything but just. We know “the rich and guilty are better off than the poor and innocent.” We know things are not as they should be.

So we have two choices. Either we long for justice and do the work to bring it about, or we become jaded and cynical. Which of the two is blessed by God?

Righteousness and Justice are the same word in Greek. The word describes the state in which all is as it should be. The guilty are punished. The innocent are vindicated. The good prosper. The wicked fall to ruin. Systems of oppression are dismantled, and the poor are empowered.

This is exactly what Mary sang about when she was pregnant with Jesus: God has brought rulers down from their thrones and sent the rich away empty, but he has filled the poor with all the good things.

Righteousness is not just about fulfilling our religious and moral obligations. That’s where the Pharisees got it all wrong. Thus, Jesus would tell us our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Jesus didn’t just come to teach us how to do religion well or even how to live a moral life.

Jesus came to set everything right. And he calls on his followers to do the same.

Before Jesus went to the cross and left his disciples, he told them they would do even greater things than they saw him do. The early church took that seriously. They started public hospitals, brought education to the masses, welcomed strangers and immigrants, took in babies to raise as their own, refused to kill in service to the Roman military, and provided for widows and orphans.

For those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will be filled. May we follow their example as they followed the example of Christ.

PERSECUTED | 40 Days of Focus, Day 25


Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
(Matthew 5:10 | The Message)

Most of us have no idea what it really looks like to be persecuted. We’ve all experienced bullies and jerks. We’ve all face insults and passive aggressiveness. But real persecution is deeper than that. Persecution arises out of fear and a lack of understanding. We fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear.

One of the most misunderstood types on the Enneagram is Type 5 – the Observer or Investigator. Fives have a deep inner commitment to truth and knowledge. They would rather sit back and people watch than actually engage in social interactions. They read the Encyclopedia for fun as kids. They are typically the type of people who know a little bit about everything and everything about something. The pursuit of knowledge and insight takes a high priority in their lives, to the point that they can seem aloof or standoffish. They tend to act more introverted than most other Types.

As such, they can be hard to relate to. They may be able to talk your ear off about differentials or automatic transmissions, but might not be up to date on the latest Marvel movies.

They are passionate about getting things right and doing things right. When they gain interest in a subject, they tend to go all in. They can be some of the best researchers, scientists, and engineers. But they might not be the “best” spouse, friend, or coworker. This can lead to ostracism and misunderstanding.

And we fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear. We mistreat that which we do not love.

Fives can feel persecuted because of their beliefs, values, and hoard of knowledge. They can feel left out, excluded, and unwelcome. That is…if they ever admit to these feelings.

An example of a Five in Scripture facing some level of persecution is Nicodemus. He appears three times in John’s Gospel. First he has a nighttime conversation with Jesus in which Jesus challenged everything he thought he knew about God. The second time we see him, Nicodemus is standing up for Jesus, pointing out that their own law prohibits the leaders from arresting Jesus without cause. They all turn on him and begin to ridicule him – even though he was simply stating facts, using his knowledge of the law to defend Jesus.

People don’t really like know-it-alls. That’s the boat most Fives find themselves in more often than we realize.

It’s important for all of us to do a better job getting to know one another. You cannot love your neighbor if you are afraid of them. You cannot overcome your fear of them if you don’t take the time to know and understand them. That’s what we all want, really – to know and to be known; to love and to be loved. And that’s what the kingdom of heaven is all about.

Do you know any Fives in your life? How might their knowledge come into conflict with their relationships?

What is our typical response when someone else points out where we’ve gone wrong? Even though they’re right, why do we react negatively?

Is there a person or group of people you’re afraid to get to know? Why? What steps can you take this week to reach out to them?

HUNGER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 21


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
(Matthew 5:6 | The Message)

What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for? What sustains you? What keeps you feeling whole and satisfied?

For certain people among us, the answer is simple: perfection.

We all know those people who want everything to be done right, for everything to be as good as it could possibly be. We know those who chase perfection in all they do – how they raise their family, how they perform academically, how they clean their house, how they organize the files on their computer. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. They have a very binary view of the world – right/wrong, black/white, good/evil, straight/crooked.

Good enough is not good enough.

We call these people “Perfectionists.” They find their home at the ONE spot on the Enneagram. Sometimes they are also called “Reformers” because they have a way of seeing what’s wrong with a system or organization and then acting to change it. This can be great for a business. It can be less great with relationships.

Ones have a tendency to “should” all over everyone and everything. You should do this. You should do that. You shouldn’t do that, ever. You should always do this. In their pursuit to make the world around them “perfect,” they are plagued by the phrase “good enough.” Think Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.

The problem is that we live in an imperfect world. The solution is not to “should” all over everything until it becomes perfect. That’s never going to happen, and it will only lead to frustration, anger, and burnout. The solution for Ones is to love.

Jesus says at the end of Matthew 5,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

But the context of perfection in this instance is Love – specifically love for one’s enemies. In other words, when we can simply love without agenda, without expecting anything in return, without exception people to change – then we can experience perfection as God defines it.

Ones put a lot of pressure on themselves to avoid mistakes and to do everything correctly. God is urging us to let go of those pressures and walk in love. Instead of chasing your own perfection, seek God’s righteousness (Mt. 6:33). When we seek God’s righteousness above all else, then we will be made full, complete, whole like we never could have known before.

Why do we feel the pressure to be “perfect?” Has social media use relieved those pressures or made it worse?

What’s the difference between human perfection and God’s righteousness?

How does love help combat the trap of perfectionism?

God hates….?

I’m sure most of you have heard of the Westoboro Baptist Church, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so. In which case, stop it! There are much more comfortable places to live.

This small group of mostly relatives “worships” in Topeka, Kansas, and protests, well, just about everywhere else. There is a documentary I watched recently, Fall From Grace, which follows and interviews members of this church. The travel around the country protesting and picketing at different events (including military funerals) and places (including synagogues and other churches). One of their most common three-word-signs is “God Hates Fags.” And I hate using that word. It pains me to type it.

That’s a strong accusation. They blame homosexuality for most of the catastrophes and hardships that befall the US, such as Katrina and 9/11.

The most unfortunate thing is that these people are not the only so-called Christians who have bought into the lie that God hates homosexuals. I have heard the same rhetoric from televangelists, evangelical pastors, even some of my own brothers in Christ.

But does God really hate homosexuals? In fact, does God hate anybody?

Not according to the Bible.

I did a search for any passage in which God specifically says that He hates something/someone. I could only find the phrase “I hate” spoken by God in the prophets. And who are the prophets mostly railing against? The corrupt religious leaders and complacent followers.

Most of the things God hates include festivals, worship assemblies, and sacrifices which are carried out by people who mistreat, oppress, and exploit their fellow man. One thing we can be sure of is that God hates the worship of those who practice injustice.

The only other thing I could find that God specifically says that he hates is…divorce. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He hates it when men mistreat their wives. They are unpleased by their wives, so they dump them on the side of the road without a penny to their name and no way of making a living. God hates divorce.

He doesn’t hate people who are divorced. He simply hates to see His covenant taken lightly and then broken.

If the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to picket and protest divorce court, I think they would have a more biblical basis for their actions. But only if they preached and worshiped while practicing justice and righteousness, which I don’t see them doing any time soon.

God loves covenental relationships. Marriage is the first covenant established between God and man. And God hates to see his covenants tossed aside as if they didn’t matter.