By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Reflection—v. 1, ‘Beware practicing your righteousness before others’
In some circles, it’s become in vogue to be a social activist. Your introduction to another Christian should include all the advocating, lobbying, and volunteering you do, lest someone think you’re not as committed as they. In a world where we can post our protest pictures on Facebook and make sure our hair looks just right beforehand, how could we not be proud of all the work we’re doing to resist Rome and help ring in the Kingdom of God? Don’t worry, if this picture I’ve painted makes you feel a little defensive, I am calling myself to account here, too. That is why I both love and hate Jesus’ caution about our tendency to practice justice when others are looking, with the hope of being seen. Sure, you’ll get the glory, the news time, the ‘likes,’ and those oh-so-warm good feelings, but you will miss out on a far greater reward, he warns. Do I think that God is tally-marking when we get too self-absorbed, withholding heavenly rewards we no longer qualify for? No. Do I think we often miss the point of doing righteousness all together, overlooking true treasures freely given? Yes, I do. Practicing righteousness is about mending and restoring what is broken. It is about relationships. If you are advocating for someone, and never take the time to know them, to love them, to sit with them and maybe even feel annoyed and disappointed with them sometimes too, you miss the beautiful gift of restorative human relationship. Relational ministry is not an accolade you can hang on the wall, store up for yourself, or post on your website. It is messy and complicated. It’s not pretty enough for social media. Yet such relationships—such justice-bringing, humanizing, friendship-forming relationships—are the heart of God. And that is a true treasure.
Prayer God of righteousness, may we seek right relationship with you and one another.