Abiding to righteousness is the key to right relationship to God. Peace is the outcome in right relationships with people. Joy is the outcome experienced within when we have the two former things, and the fulfilment of knowing our purpose in life--i.e. right relationship with self.“For the kingdom of God is ... of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval” –Romans 14:17-18 (TNIV)
Not self-righteousness, but righteousness is the key to pleasing God. It provides for, and comes prior to, the other two; peace and joy. These principles are somewhat linked through the Bible and life. Righteous must be humbly seeking right no matter what.
It is fair and equitable dealing, justice, rectitude, morality, goodness, virtue, integrity, generosity, alms, and a provision or means of justification. In a word, righteousness is godliness. And how fitting! To rightly relate with God we’d need to be god-ly wouldn’t we?
If our lives are characterised by genuine righteousness we’d expect there to be peace in all our relationships with others, as far as it depends on us. It’s the reasoning of cause and effect. Righteous pervading our lives… peace as a result. Peace with everyone including God surely makes for peace within. Enter Joy.
Joy is a funny kind of happiness. It’s not dependent on external things as much as the internal. We can, for instance, experience joy in suffering. This is a well-known human phenomenon. It is an ancient Christian tradition in the midst of persecution (to remain joyful), and is as relevant today as any other time in history.
Yet the joy discussed here is a joy specifically derived from righteousness and peace, and our right relationships with God and people. There’s joy, for instance, in knowing our purpose and being grounded in our identity.
And these are worthy goals of striving for: to please God; to be approved by our fellow human beings; and finally, to know the joy of following one’s life path.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Acknowledgement to Pastor Neville Stanway who delivered an inspired message which included this theology.