Righteousness is somewhere around the ideas of a legal standing and a relational standing; and since Biblical righteousness, in general, is about this kind of legal and relational standing of people in function to God I believe much clarity is needed specifically for Christians.
I don’t want to minimize any aspect of righteousness but I do want to make it understandable to those who are seeking a simple intellectual understanding, which wouldn’t be righteousness anymore than balloons are birds. But let me point out the bird and describe a few key details from the position of a balloon.
Here’s an illustration
Imagine trying to climb mount Everest. Realistically you’re not going to be able to get to the top without some good help and equipment. Well actually, equipment, a good guide, and some good old fashioned great physical shape are a must. You have to get to China or Nepal through the Himalayas just to have a chance at the treacherously cold mountain top. And did I mention Everest is 29,000 ft high? To say the top is cold is a good dead pan joke. It can drop to -76F easily in the winter. So let’s face it. We were not made for Everest. But with technology, hard work, and some money most people can get to the highest camps of the mountain. Why one would want to is beyond me? But, I’m sure the accomplishment of the thrill is worth it for those who have done it. At least that’s what I hear. Not my cup of tea.
Righteousness is much the same way, just now the feat is to the heights of God! Equipment, a good guide, and good shape are a minimum just to let him help you up. That’s why so many Christians are obsessed by grace and understand it to be very, very, very important.
Christ did it! That’s the good news. Because of God’s messiah, his life, death, resurrection we can have access to the height’s of God. In fact the Trinity’s work to make it happen is the ultimate display that God loves and want all to come up to where he is. Righteousness is the standing and relationship to be ok at that level with God.
For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
1 John 3:10
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.