For whom will you die? Your child? Your parent? Your next door neighbor? A murderer? Your nation? Your state?
At some point in history, someone responded “yes” to at least one of these. A number of these are conscious choices. Others were forced upon people. Others were an unthought response from the heart.
Most people will not die for someone they do not know. Many soldiers have died for their country, and many have died to protect their fellow soldier. Some soldiers have died to protect innocent people about to be harmed by those irreparably changed by war.
Whether a person is “righteous”, “just”, or “good” often isn’t part of the equation, at least not consciously. Many righteous or just people have died at the hands of “good” people. Righteousness and just-ness are often not appreciated when unrighteous and unjust actions and behaviors are confronted.
Yet, there is this strange point at which we appreciate the just and righteous. Take Joseph, husband of Mary, (earthly) father of Jesus. δίκαιος [dikaios] is used to describe Joseph. It also is the same word that Paul says is the kind of person no one would die for.
Joseph—long revered for his just, obedient, and merciful behavior toward Mary—would not be a person that others would die for. That just doesn’t seem like that could be true. On the other hand, if we had to choose between a person who confronted us with our unrighteous behavior versus someone who never said a bad thing about us (and all other things being the same)…who would we choose?
Human behavior being what it is, we’d likely not choose the righteous person. If we were to draw the parallels, we wouldn’t die for the father of Jesus. That could also mean that we wouldn’t die for Jesus, were Jesus only a man.
This is not to condemn or judge anyone. This is where we need to reflect. According to the Old Testament, prophets were often not treated well. Some were killed. There is a strong implication that the number of prophets that were killed is much higher than surface texts provide for.
When we are honest with ourselves, we often see our lives and history as following many of the same steps as Israel. This is not just our back-and-forth wanderings regarding a faithful relationship with God, it is also how we treat the righteous.
We often think of ourselves as righteous or just. Intellectually, we may very well be. When it comes to our emotions and cultural upbringing, though, our actions are often contrary to our intellectual assents. This is where we often need to ask for guidance.
1) What tools/skills/information do you use to determine the righteous or just action?
2) How often does culturally righteous/just action conflict with Godly righteous/just action?
3) How do you respond after the fact upon realizing that an act was unrighteous/unjust?
Father God, please let your Holy Spirit guide us into your righteousness and justice, that we may bring honor to your name. Amen.