A Righteousness by Faith #6: What does it mean to live?

Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:19-21

Too many believers are trudging through life, wading knee deep in burdens and unhappiness—mostly hidden under the customary I-am-fine face we put on when we gather as the church. “Is life not hard?” people ask. Are there not wars and rumors of wars? Aren’t there reasons to be anxious, with people being martyred for the faith, others being deprived of their basic human rights, still others facing crippling diseases and hunger? And what about all the polarization going on in our society, where someone hates you just for having a different idea about religion or diversity or politics?

Life is hard and this promise, “Because I live, you also will live.” of Jesus could be taken as a just a promise of heaven someday. Or it might strike you as a glib, kind of hang-in-there encouragement to his disciples. But not so on that day. Not when Jesus was on the cusp of a brutal and unjust execution, which he knew was coming just hours after this talk. He had no time for pie in the sky.

This is why I find these words so compelling. How many of us have an official theology that affirms that what we have received from Jesus is a new life full of hope, love, peace and joy—only to be trapped by our unofficial theological position that life is too full of sorrow and hopelessness for us to experience the reality of this promise.

Jesus had planned this moment—yes planned the upper room experience—to prepare his disciples for the coming blow. He would conquer whatever Satan, using the world’s systems, would throw at him and he would live. More than live, he would return to take his seat at the right hand of the Father and watch as the Father prepared for the day when all of creation—including those that rejected him—kneel before him. And that day is coming.

In the meantime, we get to live. Not necessarily a romp in the park with a no woes kind of life. Certainly none of his disciples in the room that night would live a life free from persecution, pain and rejection. But they would live—become whole in the very face of the worst they would face in the world. And living is what a righteousness by faith is all about.

Living this is not just weekly gatherings to sing songs that express our best worship and our great love for God, and also hearing God’s Word taught so we can savor its truth. This righteousness is lived out as we rub shoulders with rude neighbors, cranky spouses, unjust authorities and other denizens who cross our paths. We live as we work, as we study, as we wash and fold the clothes, as we drive across town, as we pay our bills, stand by a bed in the ICU and shop for food.

We are living even when life itself is hard, because this righteousness by faith is refining us even as we are being conformed to Jesus’ likeness. Paul would give voice to this when relating his trials to the Corinth church. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Is your journey in life hard? Jesus knew that when he said these words. But he did not despair as if the cross that was coming for him, nor the challenges of life for his people was the defining truth for their lives. He lives, not in a galaxy far, far away, but within you. His life is your life. His righteousness is your righteousness. You live it because he lives it out through you.

Steve Smith