We are dichotomous people. We have two natures. There is the nature of the spirit that longs for God, but there is also the nature of the flesh which seeks self-gratification in worldly things.
There are two kinds of righteousness. One is the righteousness we have because of our belief in Christ Jesus our Lord. The other is the righteousness which we seek to manifest in our lives. The latter is merely the outward reflection of the former.
The righteousness Paul is speaking of here is not a righteousness to earn our way in to God's good graces. It is the righteousness that springs forth from our gratitude to God for having made us righteous in His sight.
When our lives and actions do not reflect the righteousness of God, people are justified in asking what makes us any different from everyone else. They think it isn't important whether you are a Christian or not.
People who are not actively seeking God will probably not read the scriptures. But everyone around you will watch what you say and do. Your life may be the only bible they ever read. So how can we make our lives reflect the Jesus of the word?
Paul has it down pat, right here.
You are living in a society that has no understanding of God and His precepts. It is, instead, a society that has given itself over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
We see it every day. Video games exploit sex and violence to our teenagers. Vocal minorities insist that their wrong behavior is a right and demand that we not only allow, but make laws to condone it. Other voices demand that freedom of choice not be called murder while they take the life of a pre-born infant, called forth by God. And the list goes on.
We are called to a higher purpose. We have been called to be Christ's visible presence on earth. We can only do this if we exhibit His righteousness. And Paul tells us what to do.
Speak truth at all times.
Do not sin in anger against your neighbor.
Work with your hands.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.
Do not nurse grievances, but forgive one another.
These are the traits of righteousness that spring from our righteousness of God in Christ.
Help us to move the fleshly person of ourselves out of Your way. Give us the grace to manifest Your righteousness in all we say and do, that we may become a beacon for the lost.
In Jesus' most precious name.