“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
Proverbs 14:34, ESV
Doing what is right. Doing it the right way. With the right people. Then we will have a great nation. The Bible has many examples showing this is true, but we have space to consider only one.
The greatest human king in the Bible was Solomon. He was greater than his father David in many ways. At its height, his kingdom was the largest of all the Israelite kings.
It was because he did the right thing that he was made king. When God asked him what he wanted, his simple reply was “wisdom”. So he committed himself to do what was right.
However, his life took a turn for the worse when he started doing all that the Lord had said not to do. In other words, he did not do what was right. He had the wrong kind of people around him, especially his foreign wives who eventually turned his heart away from following the Lord.
Doing what is right. Where do humans get a sense of righteousness? There must be an ultimate authority on what is right. We understand that to be God, revealed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who He is and what He decrees are the standards by which we measure whether a thing is right or wrong. So the psalmist declares:
“Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.” (Psalm 119:137, ESV)
Is this righteousness known to all, regardless of their religion? The Bible seems to say so. In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that no one can plead ignorance of what is right or wrong to justify his or her ungodly conduct.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis explains that though the moral standards of right or wrong differ according to cultures, there appears to be a “moral sense” which is universal to all human beings. They are condemned not for rejecting Christ which they have never heard (as in Romans 2), but for their blatant sinning against the light (of morality or what is right) that all human beings have.
To have an upright government without direct religious affiliation is possible. The moral standard, however, is not to be gauged by the popular vote, or whether society is becoming more conservative or more liberal. It is to pursue what we accept as right values leading to proper conduct, which is instituted in laws.
All religions have a moral code in many areas of which they overlap each other. The extremists and radicals will always be with us, and they exist in every religion. Each religion will know who such people are, and how they are identified as such. Hence, in each religion the majority knows who are right, and who are on the fringe.
What holds a society together is a consensus on what constitutes righteousness, the ideals of which all religions share a common ground. All of these, however, would not affect how a society turns out, if not for leadership that not only upholds these values but is also willing to formulate and execute policies justly.
What is right done in the right way by the right people.
The contrast is obvious. “Sin” is missing the mark, which is righteousness. The result is the disgrace that comes upon the people of that nation. The world has many examples of countries that have failed as societies and become bankrupt as economies. While the citizens of those countries may not feel the reproach, many from the rest of the world do.
Background picture by Creativa/Bigstock.com
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years.