A very basic but perplexing question hovers in the background of a lot of our current national angst. The question is this- Can righteousness or the cause of good be advanced by people behaving badly. Of course, one needs to be careful to define what behaving badly means. Badly can be defined by religious doctrine, by the laws of the state, or by an innate notion of what is proper and kind.
Another issue must be acknowledged as any would attempt to address this question. That is the fact that none of us are without flaws and numerous moments in which we behave badly by almost any definition of what is bad behavior. Thus there are no perfect human beings to advance the cause of righteousness. Many of us probably feel that our flaws and flawed moments are such anomalies that we are still effective advocates for righteousness and perhaps allied with God in that advocacy.
Looking to the Bible for answers might lead one to differing opinions depending on what is emphasized. Certainly the Bible is full of stories about unrighteous behavior by characters which are still depicted as advancing the developing plan of God. Abraham, David, Solomon, Judas, and Paul are just a few examples. Each was a very flawed man but yet they were used by God as the Bible tells it. Thus it would seem reasonable to believe that men acting badly can serve God’s purpose, if one accepts these examples as valid today.
Human history since Christ is again full of accounts of people who apparently believed that lying, cheating, stealing, and killing were good if done in the name of God. Violations of any standard of good behavior have been sanctioned by the church either in its own actions or those of the state. Things have gradually change over the centuries but bad behavior is still being approved and sponsored by all world religions under the pretense of promoting righteousness.
For current day Christians another question presents itself. Did Jesus come and leave humanity stuck with the same old ideas about the advancement of righteousness. Are Old Testament and even New Testament examples of behaviors our guide today? Are we bound by the Judaic law and obliged to believe that we are God’s agents operating under that law 2000 years this side of Christ? Didn’t Jesus change anything meaningfully and serve as a new example of how to advance the cause of righteousness? If we in the 21st century can serve God by willful unrighteousness, I confess to being mightily confused by the entire spirit of Christ’s earthly ministry.
Jesus comes and demonstrates love as the ultimate reflection of God. Jesus then completes his love mission, but mankind continues to operate just like before, driven by fear instead of love. The pursuit of righteousness remains supposedly incomplete with flawed men struggling to advance it and trying to do so in unrighteousness.
Figuratively, Christianity has said that we had it better back there in Egypt before we were delivered from bondage. This “New Moses” – He’s gone and we don’t know what to make of him.