Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
It’s hard to visit with someone about Christianity for long before the person begins talking about the quality of your faith. In the Christian community we are rightly very concerned that Christians should be faithful to the Lord. We want to see people living a life of holiness and dedication to God. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about how important it is to devote ourselves to honoring God. Yet much of American Christianity makes a grave mistake by urging people to look to the quality of their repentance, the fervency of their prayer, and the wholehearted dedication of their entire being to Jesus as if we can earn God’s favor.
Our reading from Romans 5 shows how this is completely backwards. The Christian life is not about our dedication to Jesus or our self-sacrifice. It is about Jesus, who not only gave his life for others, but did so when they were hopelessly embroiled in sin. If any normal human were to be perfect, which will never happen, that person might consider, at least for a moment, giving his life for other people who are really good. But Jesus showed his love for us by giving his life for us while we were still sinners.
When we consider what it means to be a Christian, we need to focus on God’s work. It is through Jesus’ death for us while we were engulfed in sin and death that we can receive life. Should we try harder? Yes, we certainly should try to live a godly life, loving our neighbor as ourself. But that doesn’t contribute anything to our worthiness. It is only through Jesus’ righteousness that we are saved from sin and death. Our good works don’t benefit God in any way. They benefit our neighbor. May the Lord help us to see the work rightly and live in the freedom of Christ’s love for us.
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