Of Ice Buckets, True Righteousness, and Our Neighbor

BY ELYSE FITZPATRICK

Okay, okay... before everyone gets up in arms about my lack of care for helping people with ALS or breast cancer or... let me clearly state this isn't a blog against helping people suffering with these terrible diseases. Phil and I had a dear friend who died from ALS and my aunt just died from complications from chemotherapy given to try to fight the breast cancer she had struggled against for 15 years. So... no "Elyse doesn't care about helping suffering people." Please.

Here's my concern: When I see people all over the nation getting buckets of ice water dumped on the heads, I have to ask “Why?” And, yes, I know it's about raising money for ALS (a good thing) and raising awareness (whatever that means). I still have to ask “Why?” Why this and not something else? And why this at all?

And here's my answer: There's nothing more satisfying to the soul than going through a baptism of ice to prove you are good. And if it were only that easy to wash away all the mundane selfishness, shame and bragging about how we're not really so bad after all... I'd take an ice bath. (And no, I won't take the challenge because I'm old, it would take me forever to recover any warmth, and because I look terrible in a wet t-shirt. So, no.)

No, the only place real righteousness or "okayness" comes from is faith... faith in a Christ who really was/is righteous in our place, faith in his death and resurrection, faith in His words, "It is finished." And that, dear friends, is the hardest thing on earth to believe. Worse, even if you do believe it, you won't get to brag about it and have all your friends celebrate your courage and goodness. In fact, you may actually be scorned for your weakness. But that's the only place you can get a clean conscience. And yes, water is involved here, too.  But it's not the bravado of taking a bucket of ice for the team, it's the reception of something altogether foreign: a righteousness given by another, who had the full wrath of God dumped on his head while he cried, “Why have you forsaken me?”

You can't do this on your own. You have to receive this cleansing, this goodness, this righteousness. And you're going to have to fight to remember it every day, especially when you see those video clips that tell you that you don't make the grade. Will you believe that He's enough? Will you “Amen” these words, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)? Will you believe that your baptism signifies that you are already cleansed and that because He loves, everything that needed to be done has already been done?

So... stand up to cancer or walk for pink ribbons or take a bucket of ice for the team. Have at it if you like. Just remember that your real goodness is the kind of goodness that caused Paul to boast in weakness and brought martyrdom (not celebration) to millions. And then love Him and love your neighbor in all the ways in which your faith leads you.

Elyse holds a certificate in biblical counseling from CCEF (San Diego) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 21 books on daily living and the Christian life. A frequent speaker at women’s conferences, she has been married for nearly 40 years and has three adult children and six really adorable grandchildren.

Twitter @ElyseFitz