The Collect for Independence Day.
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflection “Behavior that is morally justifiable or right” is the common dictionary definition of “righteousness,” the habitual way of life upon which rests “liberties” for all people. This begs several questions; What behaviors are morally justifiable or right? Who is the arbiter of standards for morality or rightness? For whom do these standards apply?
Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersect by pointing to Divine Law as expressed in the Hebrew Testament, the Christian Testament and the Qur’an as the standard for human righteousness. The Torah, the Law of Moses, is given to the Israelites during their time wandering in the desert. Then the Book of Leviticus instructs the Israelites how to conduct themselves legally and morally and provides ritual guidance to restore them to right relationship when they turn away from God or engage in impure behavior.
In the Christian Testament when a lawyer tested Jesus asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” (Matt 22.35-40) In other words, the standard for righteousness given to Christians is to be in loving relationship with God and with all people.
Turning to the Qur’an we find a definition of righteousness given to our Islamic sisters and brothers, “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the east and the west [in prayer]. But righteous is the one who believes in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Scripture and the Prophets; who gives his wealth in spite of love for it to kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the wayfarer, to those who ask and to set slaves free. And (righteous are) those who pray, pay alms, honor their agreements, and are patient in (times of) poverty, ailment and during conflict. Such are the people of truth. And they are the God-Fearing.” Qur'an Surah 2: Verse 177
All three Abrahamic traditions teach that behaviors that are morally justifiable or right, righteousness, emulate the attributes of God. By embodying the attributes of God we promote, sustain and restore respectful, generous, benevolent and trustworthy relationships among people. Righteousness, the habitual way of life upon which rests “liberties” for all people, is the root of all three religious traditions. Perhaps it is time for all of us to return to our root.
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