How, then, should we live? It is an intimately important question for the Christian, who always seems to be torn between grace and truth. Do we proclaim what we know is right or do we welcome those who we believe are wrong? Do we hold a high standard in accordance with the holiness of God or do we humble ourselves, that more might come to Him?
The answer is both, but that doesn't really help us. It leaves us with the same question: how, then, should we live?
Or in layman's terms: "Huh?"
But we have an example in the Lord Himself, who has always chosen to walk with us and to demonstrate for us what a holy life is. Today, we look at the Psalms to see how it is that we should live, taking our cue from the Lord who lives among us. Specifically, Psalm 96.
This Psalm declares that God is righteous with the world. When He is interacting with the world at large, it is His righteousness that is prominent. Righteousness is an internal characteristic; it depends upon one's own adherence to one's own covenant and promises and character. One can be righteous all by him- or herself; it does not require any external circumstance or verification.
But this Psalm equally declares that God is faithful with people. When He is intimately engaged with someone else, it is His faithfulness that is prominent. Faithfulness is a relational characteristic; it depends upon one's chosen way of interacting with others. One must be in relationship to be faithful; it requires two parties.
For those of us trying to figure out what it means to live holy lives in this world, this is it; this is how, then, we should live.
We should live with integrity to ourselves, what we would call righteousness. When the world looks on at who we are without any outside influence, what they should see is a people who hold themselves to a high standard and embrace that. A people who adhere to their own covenant and promises and character. They should see our steadfastness in what we know to be truth, and it should be a witness to the watching world.
And when we are in relationship with others, we should live with faithfulness. Making a commitment and keeping it. Being there, showing up, engaging, and delivering on what we believe it means to be in intimate relationship - or fellowship - with one another. They should see our commitment to them, in grace, above all else and know, through interacting with us, what love is.
Is it grace? Is it truth? It's both. Is it righteousness? Is it faithfulness? It's both. Is it us or is it them? It's both. The emphasis shifts depending upon where we are. There is one way that is best when we live with the world watching; there is another way when we live touching the world. We have to figure out what the dynamic is, where we're at. Are we in a place where our measure is internal or external? Is it about being consistent and true and steadfast or is it about being trustworthy and dependable and welcoming? What is the world witnessing...and why?
The difficult truth, of course, is that it should always be both. We do not stop being righteous in order to be faithful, and we do not stop being faithful in order to be righteous. That would defeat the purpose and negate the witness. But what we have to understand is how the world is witnessing at any given moment, what the world requires in a moment. What the world needs to see of us.
The difficult truth, of course, is that it's always both and often even more than this. But look at the way God does it - His default is righteousness; that's who He always is. No matter what. In relationship, however, He is more.
So should we be.