We think if we could only accept every kind of behavior in people, there would be peace. But every kind of behavior in people is not right. The Oxford dictionary defines “righteousness” as “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.”
Proverbs 14: 34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” According to God who created this earth and the people in this world, God has standards that people should live by in order that there will be some semblance of peace in this world. But God requires righteous behavior from people before there will be peace. Think about all the bad behavior that destroys families, relationships, societies and nations. Can people live righteous and peaceful lives? Of course they can. Genesis 4: 6-7, “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’”
God says, if only you will do what’s right, you will be accepted. Think of an employee who won’t follow the rules at work. The boss says, “if only you will come in on time, if only you will make an attempt to do what’s required, just like every other employee, won’t you keep your job, and in time get a raise?” God isn’t a terrible mean-spirited boss who demands moral behavior people can never do. We are made after the very image of God. No other creature that God created can make that claim. Not even angels. So why does mankind not want to just do what is right?
In the Bible, sin is described as the inner rebellious nature of mankind that does not want to submit to God’s rule. Think of a child. You don’t have to train that child to say “no” to their parents. It comes out naturally. As that child grows, they can either become more rebellious toward authority or maybe more submissive, according to how the parents teach their children. I think we all know this, but somehow we have come up with the idea that we don’t need God to help us do this. We want our own moral standards because we think we are wiser than God. Isn’t that the same thing God said to Cain in the beginning. Genesis 4: 3, 14: “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear....today You are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from Your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’”
Cain would never be hidden from God’s presence, but he is choosing to run from God, and he even knows he will be restless and have no peace anymore in his soul. Isn’t that how unrighteous behavior makes people feel? Restless, no peace. Romans 2: 14, 15: “Indeed, when people, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
When someone does something wrong, we have a conscience that accuses us. We feel restless and have no peace. Think of the person at work who is always fighting the system. Do they have peace about their situation? Are they nice to work with? Do they have peace they won’t lose their jobs? Now apply this to even more situations we as human’s face. Can you see the chaos that unrighteousness causes? And yet God says to all of us, “if you will only do what’s right, won’t you be accepted?”
Where does this start? Does it start with government doing the right thing and then the people will follow? Does it start with our neighbor who we don’t get along with, doing the right thing and then we will do what’s right? Does it take ISIS to stop doing evil in the world, and then we will all start doing the right thing? Or does it start with me and you?
God spoke to Cain, not the rest of the population. God speaks to each of us as individuals and says the same thing. “If only you will do what’s right...” God is big enough to speak to everyone who will listen. But will we listen?
Almost every person in these United States has a Bible in their home. But do they read it? Just think about that. Every person has the ability to hear God speak to them, and yet that Bible sits on the shelf and collects dust. What would God do for America if everyone starting reading the New Testament? Would God reestablish His righteousness in our nation again? Would there be peace in families, schools, personal relationships again? What would happen if our politicians started reading the New Testament and doing the right things then, according to God’s standards? Would we have a better nation? What are the possibilities that God could do in our nation if everyone just did what was right?
Now that is what God desires. But He knows everyone will not do this. But what about if even a quarter of the population would do this? What if half the nation would do this? What are the possibilities of God to reestablish peace and righteousness in our nation again? In our families again? In our schools again? Where does this all start?
Reading the New Testament would be a good start. No one can really know what God has to say unless we read the Word of God. In John 8: 34-36 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
In John 8: Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; God sent Me... Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me!”
The New Testament includes the written words of Jesus. Do we really want to know what God says to us? Then we need to listen to Jesus! God sent Jesus to teach us about God, what He is like. But we need to take all of Jesus’ words, not just what we like.
So it is up to you, because it starts with you. Will you read the New Testament to find out about righteousness and peace or will you spend the rest of your life in restlessness? The choice starts with you!