Monday, March 28, 2005

Holding On To Your Righteousness

Each morning this week in Hyderabad we have started the day with prayer and devotions in the chapel. I am asking my Indian students to share their favorite Scripture verse, those that have been especially meaningful and an encouragement for them. Most of the passages have come from the book of Psalms, so you can imagine my surprise when one fellow cited Job 27:6:

“My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.”

Job is one of my favorite Bible characters and I use him often in my teaching. Here was a man who greatly suffered and was accused by his friends, and even his wife, for wrongdoing. Their counsel was he needed to acknowledge his sin and repent before God. Job steadfastly refused to admit to a wrong that he was not guilty of. I have often thought it took a great deal of courage for him to stand up against majority opinion. How devastating it must have been for him to listen to misinformed people moralize and cast judgment. No doubt it was also offensive. A lesser man would have yielded, asking for forgiveness, coping a plea of having committed an unknown sin. Not Job. He would not have any of it.

If you did not know the conclusion of the life of Job, his words in this verse would seem arrogant. In the preceding verse he seems to be defiant as he confronts his prosecutor’s.

“God forbid that I should justify you...” Job not only refused to be accused but he was accusing the accusers, for their malicious as well as unjustified judgment on his life. He continues, “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity.” Obstinate and self-righteous fellow, that Job.

We know that Job’s antagonist’s were mere instrument’s of the Accuser. That seems to be Lucifer’s most delightful game, bringing charge against God’s own. Most of us walk about feeling this weight of accusation, the feeling that we are sinful, inadequate and indeed, just downright wretched in the sight of the One who created us. Job would have none of it. Though he did not understand the circumstances that caused the world to crumble around him, and he categorically wasn’t going to let the false accusations of other’s determine his future.

To be sure, we must confess our wrongdoings when we have clearly made a mistake. Jehovah did deal with Job’s attitude as his dialogue about the Almighty crossed the line in questioning God’s integrity. In the end, however, God supported Job’s claims of righteousness and dealt harshly with Job’s fussy friends (42:7-9).

Courage to claim righteousness in face of public opinion -- from your peers, your church, or even your own theology, is not an easy thing. That’s what makes Job such a unique person in Scripture. If you know you are right, don’t take the easy way out by yielding your integrity. Hold on to your righteousness, as long as you have breath.