Right or Righteousness?
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
I have struggled with this text for a long time. Much of the persecution, as much as it has been over the past years, has involved areas of life not directly related to obedience to the Spirit and Word of God but to maintaining a position of being technically and morally right in more political arenas. This has put me in the sights of a number of aggressive predators over the years and has created a great deal of emotional anguish and even physical pain at times. All along the way I agonized over whether I should continue in the path that I had started on and each time I felt that the only right option I had was to base my life on what was true and to follow my conscience even though it would put me in never-ending conflict with civil authorities and ruthless corporations.
What has happened is that I have been persecuted for trying to stand up for right but not necessarily righteousness. But the difference was impossible for me to see. I have always had an extremely sensitive conscience. This has been a liability for me in various ways over my lifetime but has also served to keep me from wandering too far away from God. But as someone recently pointed out to me, rules without love only produce rebellion. In my formative years I was surrounded with teachings and reinforcements about all sorts of rules and my conscience was trained to feel very guilty if I violated them. At first glance this sounds like the Christian way to raise a child, but unfortunately the typical Christian approach is often a counterfeit of God's true methods.
Because my conformance to rules was thought to be genuine obedience and any breaking of the rules was determined to be rebellion, I grew up with a huge vacancy in my perception of how this all really works. Of course most of those in charge of training me also had this huge missing part of a proper understanding of how God works so it is no surprise. But the outcome was that I became deeply trapped in an external form of obedience without having any motivation of love for the compliance that I offered as obedience.
Obedience that does not flow from a heart softened and transformed by love is not true obedience. Just as something appearing to be love is not real love if it is not selfless and reflective of love first received, obedience that is based on conformity through fear is only external in nature. It may be based on correct information, it may produce all sorts of desirable results and may even keep one out of trouble for a long time and produce a good reputation in people's opinions, but it is not real obedience when it comes to a saving relationship with God. It is simply conformity for the sake of avoiding trouble and pain and is often based on a mentality of trying to figure out what is factually correct and then trying force the life to line up with those facts.
Ironically, while over the past 15 years I have been slowly escaping from the beliefs of legalism in my spiritual perceptions of God, I was unknowingly being drawn deeper and deeper into a parallel form of the very same thing in another arena of my life. All the time I was following my conscience, praying at each step of the way and seeking to know what was right. God worked with me all along the way because He knew I had this vacancy of understanding about true obedience in my brain and it was so deeply embedded that it could not easily be exposed enough to correct it until quite some time later.
That some time later has now arrived and it is extremely painful. My whole life has been rocked by earthquakes and volcanoes emotionally and even spiritually. I am in the midst of the biggest crisis I have ever experienced in my whole life thus far and I am reexamining everything I have ever believed about obedience. My left brain has been filling up with wonderful truths and insights about God over the past few years that has served to form a good context in which to process all of this stuff pouring out right now. My heart has been much slower to accept good news about God and I have been praying for God to bring it up to speed, to somehow cause it to believe much more of what my head has been learning about Him. He has moved into my life in painful ways and is doing just that, but the pain and fear and trauma involved has nearly paralyzed me emotionally and has shattered many of my assumptions and beliefs that I have founded my life upon.
I have been startled to discover that under pressure my heart faith is microscopic in size compared to what I thought it really was before. I find myself struggling to believe that God is big enough to handle my problems and I want to step in and do something to save myself. Fear has been overwhelming my faith and I am surprised at the inability of my heart to rest in God. But with my heart so raw now and exposed an unexpected benefit has emerged. It is much easier to speak real words of truth into my heart at this point than ever before. Because it is much more open, even though it has been exposed as having very little faith it is more willing to actually ponder and take seriously the things that my left brain has been believing for quite some time. It also seems to be more open to the encouragement from others who are seeking to support me.
I feel an intense need for real community right now in the right sense of the term. I have a deep hunger to have people in my life who will just be there for me, immerse me in words from God, words of hope, comfort, faith and love. I need people who have more faith than I do right now to have faith on my behalf while mine is trying to grow in the right part of my brain. I feel very weak and vulnerable and extremely sensitive at this point in my life. I also feel like I am under constant surveillance by demonic forces circling me just waiting for loopholes to appear where they can charge in and viciously attack my mind again. I am much more intensely aware now that any peace that I enjoy is only because of the grace of God and cannot be simply assumed to just be normal life.
At this point in my life I am reexamining the difference between being right and true righteousness. I now realize that I have been caught in a very subtle trap, a deception of the enemy that ensnares millions. I have subconsciously believed that righteousness equated with following right information, standing for the defense of right facts, understanding the law properly and trying to align my life with it, whether it be God's laws or human government laws. Those who know my situation may feel very confused by that statement but they don't really understand me very well either.
But trying to get to the core of law and standing for the defense of my rights is not the same thing as righteousness from heaven's perspective. It is actually just a version of legalism, and the law is what kills, only the Spirit gives life. I have been trained all my life in the principles of legalism and the fruit is now coming to ripen and produce results that I was not expecting at all. Now that I am seeing the spiritual fruit to be of the wrong nature I am forced to go back and examine the roots of many of my beliefs and replace them with new plants rooted firmly in a genuine, heart-based relationship with my Savior and my God.
I feel like in some respects I am starting all over again. I feel emotionally like an infant at times and in need of a great deal of help and nurturing in the right direction. I am in great need of more genuine faith but I also know that faith is something that can grow spontaneously as a result of connecting my heart with God's heart. What I really need right now is a much clearer vision of who God really is from the eyes of my own heart so that my faith can take root in the right soil.