We have all heard about the righteousness of Abraham, and how God made His covenant with Abraham who would be the father of many nations. We have heard Saint Paul speak about the faith of Abraham that was accounted as righteous. But nowhere do we hear about Abraham being perfect. Is there a difference between perfection and righteousness?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5.6) If Abraham was righteous and we’re are invited to hunger for righteousness, how are we supposed to live today? Abraham wasn’t perfect, why are we expected to be perfect, as Christ commanded, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5.48)
Abraham allowed his wife to be sexually abused, pretending she was his sister, to protect the family from being destroyed. (See Genesis 12) Abraham has a child with his wife’s slave rather than his wife, pretending that he was doing so only because God said he would be the father of many nations. (See Genesis 15) In these examples, we see Abraham’s shortcomings, but he never ceases to be righteous in God’s eyes.
Righteousness isn’t perfection. It is being dedicated to doing what God desires, sometimes making mistakes in judgement, but never failing to trust God’s will. Even being corrected and redirected by God, Abraham never gave up believing God would accomplish what He said He would accomplish. This is what we are invited to hunger and thirst for, from God. It ended well for Abraham, and it will end well for us.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly." Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17.1-9