Navigating Righteousness

One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes from his book Mere Christianity addresses the heavenly desires we all have, even though we may not even realize they are heavenly: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

 There are many things in our earthly lives that could qualify for such a desire, but perhaps one of the desires that eludes our heavenly radar is our desire for righteousness. There have certainly been plenty of events recently in the news to unveil this desire. But the type of righteousness I am referring to is not our own individual righteousness per se, but rather how we deal with the righteousness (and particularly the lack of it) in others.

 Unfortunately, the leadership of the state of Virginia alone has provided more than an ample sample size for us to evaluate the sins and indiscretions of others. The past offenses of the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general have not only complicated that state’s political landscape, they have also revealed the challenge of determining what constitutes egregious and unsuitable behavior in office. We live in a world where people have all kinds of information at their disposal, and it can be used to dispose of any person in leadership.

 The events of the past week have raised important questions. What is the statute of limitations with regard to errors of the past? Is there forgiveness (or tolerance) for things done in our twenties when who we are (including our cerebral frontal cortex) was not fully developed? How do we process past sins and indiscretions with present character and performance? When should a thing of the past remain in the past? There are no easy answers. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

 There are no easy answers because we were not created to bring resolutions to these issues of righteousness on a human level. We long for the righteousness we are forced to navigate here on earth to be settled, and that is why the navigation process itself can be very unsettling. Lewis’s observation means that no earthly conception or deliberation of human righteousness in this world can satisfy because we were made for another world. We were made for another world where every human being will be clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ, settled for all eternity.

 One of the things that will make heaven heaven is that there will be no deliberations, no fact-finding missions of past indiscretions, not even the slightest hint of residue in the earthly struggle to process and determine human righteousness. Forever, the people of God will be free from both the punitive and processing affects of our individual righteousness and instead will forever dwell in Christ’s. Here’s part of how the apostle John described heaven in Rev. 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” How wonderful to know that all the mourning and crying and pain associated with navigating our imperfect individual righteousness now on earth will have passed away forever. The sins of our past will remain in the past. Every search to find them will be futile. And every history of our sins (computer or cognitive) will be permanently deleted.

George Garrison