From time to time one gets the impression that Christians and non-Christians both feel that their attempts to live righteous lives constitute doing God a favor. “I’m living the life prescribed by Him, so He must be pleased with me.”
There is a sense in which that is true. This is not to say that we can earn our way to heaven by being good. We know that is not true. We can only be justified before God through Christ. However, Scripture does in numerous places speak favorably of those who are living righteously.
That said, though, Scripture connotes that God’s enabling us to live righteously comprises a significant favor He does for us. That is the clear message of Peter in Acts 3:26:
“To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
The blessing of living righteously is not all that apparent in the America in which I grew up. It was easy to take for granted. People were basically honest and decent and responsible. Many of those who opted for sinful lifestyles did so behind closed doors where their wickedness did not pollute the general society. Marriages stayed together, most people lived financially responsible lives, drugs are virtually unheard of, nudity was confined to the back shelves of dirty little cigar stores, and cursing and other gross language did not comprise a part of public discourse. Sure, in army barracks, automobile repair shops, and among some business groups bad language was heard and pinup pictures were exhibited. But in general, ungodliness was seen as such and was for the most part kept under wraps.
Someone did an interview with a person who had been involved with the Apollo 13 operation. He was asked whether the movie accurately portrayed this historical event. In reply he agreed that the motion picture had captured the reality of the situation with one exception. He asserted that the actual operation did not include all of the cursing that was present in the film.
Today the situation is far different. Depravity saturates our culture, being much more accepted and much more public. Though God is not pleased with American decadence, it is causing substantially greater problems for us. Because of our Christian heritage and its residual stabilizing force on our society, we have not felt the full effects of our post-Christian, post-godly orientation. But we are starting to, and it isn’t pretty. Rehearsing the litany of American evils is not necessary. We are all too aware of them. The American left in their blindness somehow concludes that the post-Christian society they have produced comprises substantial progress over our previous Christian culture.
The fact is that not only have they produced a failing society but also they are producing an environment in which it is not pleasant to live. For example, many teachers want no part of their profession because of the attitudes and actions of many of their students. Life is not pleasant for single moms or children of single moms. Likewise, many cases exist in which men who have been faithful and decent fathers have been forced to leave their homes, have had a significant portion of their wages assigned to their wife and children, while they are allowed minimal contact with those children. The ensuing divorce only tends to make the situation permanent. All this only to say that in our society life can be nasty both for men and women.
Our contemporary social engineers seem to have failed to include genuine joy and peace as part of their equation. If God through revival were to return righteousness to our nation, our godly behavior would not comprise our doing God a favor, but Him doing us a very big one.