Craving Righteousness

By Kaitlin Schluter, Editor-in-Chief | Journalism major
Those who build an appetite for right relationship with God and others will be blessed.
(Photo by Jon Dickson)

Although he attended four seminaries, Professor of Biblical Studies Dr. Bruce Baloian was never taught how to hunger for righteousness. It’s a hunger that’s deep inside, calling us to do “what’s appropriate” in line with God’s heart. It’s a hunger that Baloian continues to understand through the moments others manifest Jesus’ fourth beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Mt. 5:6)

“If you worry about your image, you don’t get anywhere,” said Baloian, recalling advice from a past professor. “If you worry about actually being righteous and don’t care how you’re perceived, you get somewhere.”

He’s witnessed people firsthand who displayed this uninhibited hunger, including a colleague who raises money privately for students who can’t afford textbooks.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contains nine beatitudes and ultimately points back to our own spiritual depravity. Dallas Williard, in “The Divine Conspiracy,” urges that the beatitudes are not simply good news if understood as “’how-tos’ for achieving blessedness.” These paradoxes rather speak of the current availability of God’s Kingdom through a relationship with Christ. And with this, comes an appetite for right relationship with God and others.

This is the hunger for ‘righteousness,’ which is synonymous with ‘justice.’

“If that’s not a hunger or desire in our lives, then there is something spiritually wrong,” said Dr. Chris Bounds, theologian in residence and associate professor of religion and philosophy at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Bounds recently wrote an article for United Theological Seminary’s blog called “One Thing Needed,” which examines a demand for church renewal. For Bounds, this “hunger” is needed. Christians instead practice a “disordered love,” misaligning their desires on other things and misinterpreting Jesus’ promise to be “satisfied.”

“The temptation is to somehow view complacency as satisfaction, when in fact, satisfaction is walking out this life in love and justice—the ultimate purposes for which we have been created,” Bounds said.

Sophia Cabio is attempting to live this out in the inner city of Skid Row, located in Los Angeles, Calif. She’s the executive director of Central City Community Outreach, a nonprofit that works with families and children living in poverty. She started volunteering there six years ago, somewhat hesitant to return to her past of circulating in and out of homelessness.

The turning point for Cabio, though, came after meeting Jeremiah, a teen “who nobody wanted to mess with.” His past involvement with gangs made him hard to approach. On a field trip, Cabio lent Jeremiah money for dinner since he had none. It was Jeremiah who helped her realize how to impact others.

“He just sat there quietly and said, ‘How do you know people aren’t going to mistake your niceness for weakness?’” said Cabio. “In that moment I thought, there’s nothing you can say. It’s something that you have to show.”

Major Ian Robinson, who is the divisional communities relations and development director of the Southern California division of The Salvation Army, also recognized hunger shouldn’t be paired with defeat. Often, people become overwhelmed with the need for justice that they don’t know what to do. “It’s like standing in front of a freight train and yelling stop,” Robinson said. But for Robinson, he finds satisfaction knowing the outcome of his actions isn’t up to him.

“The outcome is up to God. He is in control, He is sovereign,” said Robinson. “But the satisfaction I have is knowing that I’m doing what God has called me to do and asked me to do. If I lose that hunger and that thirst for righteousness, I’m going to be very dissatisfied.”

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