“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
We are new creations.
Who we used to be, what we used to struggle with, is no longer part of our identity.
It’s not an easy concept to live out.
Sure, we’ll say we are new creations.
We’ll even tell others we are new.
But when it comes to messing up, when it comes to sinning yet again, we don’t always understand our newness.
We still feel like the same, old people.
In his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul makes an astounding statement:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The readers of Paul’s letter would have found this idea revolutionary.
The Jews in Jesus’ time believed their righteousness came from what they did. They had roughly 660 laws in the Old Testament they had to keep, and their righteousness, or right standing with God, was based on how well they kept the law.
Those who followed the law closely were considered to be in right-standing with God.
Those who broke they law were considered unrighteousness, and were required to bring a sacrifice at least once a year to pay for their unrighteousness and push back the unleashing of God’s wrath one more year.
But Christ changed all that.
He not only paid for our sins, but He gave us a new identity of being righteous.
Paul used covenant language in the verse above, something the original readers would have picked up on. Whenever someone in that time created covenant with another person, a series of rituals were performed to make the agreement lifelong.
The covenant partners would exchange belts, symbolizing a sharing of each other’s strengths.
They would exchange weapon, symbolizing their enemies would become each other’s enemies.
They pronounced blessings and curses over each other, should they keep or break the covenant, respectively.
But the very first ritual was the exchange of robes.
In that day, your robe was your identity. It’s how someone would know who was coming down the road. It showed them what class of citizen you found yourself in. It portrayed whether you were rich or poor, favored or an outcast, respected or despised.
Exchanging your robes meant you exchanged identities, and carried with you the good and bad of the person with which you came into covenant.
Jesus wore a robe a righteousness.
We wear robes of sin.
When He went to the cross for our sin, He put on our identity of sin and gave us His identity of righteousness.
Now when God looks at us, He doesn’t define us by our sin, our shame, or our mistakes.
He defines us by the righteousness of His son.
And doesn’t hold our sin against us any longer.
So, my brothers and sisters, as you wrestle with your shortcomings, may you remember you are no longer defined by your sin. May you see yourself the way God sees you: as righteous. And may you, as you learn to fully embrace the new creation that you are, find your identity being formed by who Christ is and what He has done, not on what you’ve done.
How can you begin living out the truth that your identity is righteous, even when you sin?