For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. – Galatians 5:6
Today I’m thinking about our relationship to God as people who are redeemed, forgiven, welcomed, accepted, and covered by the reach of God’s amazing, invitational, and generous grace.
This was what we talked about at this morning’s meeting of the Saturday morning men’s covenant group. The group – which has now grown from the initial three to the eleven men who attended today – is studying one of my favorite books. The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian (Upper Room Books) is a collection of stories and meditations exploring the difference between church membership and a commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple.
Judge or Redeemer?
This week’s chapter, titled “Judge or Redeemer” explored some of the pitfalls of building a religion around judgment, finger-pointing, and condemnation. Too many “Christians” focus on what’s wrong with everyone else, rather than standing in humble gratitude that – because of Jesus – even they are welcomed with open arms.
That’s right, I said “even they.” It doesn’t matter what our sin is, what our accomplishments are, what denomination we associate with, whether we were sprinkled or immersed, how precisely accurate our doctrine is, or where we fall in relation to a whole catalog of debatable issues, each one of us will stand before God on equal footing, and we will stand with confidence because of Jesus.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1-4
Oh, but don’t we still love so much to be “right,” and to point out where others have gone astray? So we talked about this a lot, and we all shared how much it means to us to understand the scope of God’s grace and to know – personally – that we are forgiven and free.
“We’re all broken,” Ed pointed out; “we all need mercy and forgiveness and grace.”
“It’s like this,” I said, grabbing an illustration out of the air that seemed to work at the time. “Imagine a child standing in the kitchen with the shattered remains of a teapot all over the floor. I guess we could respond by berating the child harshly, pointing out every broken piece, criticizing their teapot handling technique, raking them over the coals, telling them repeatedly what a terrible person they are for messing up – and then angrily denounce them for their carelessness and disregard of property. We could go over everything they did leading up to moment the pot broke, and decide exactly which error, which abomination, which sin was the most egregious….
Or – alternatively – we could put our arms around the child and say, “I love you;” and then we could say, “let’s see what we can do to make this right.”
Let’s Make This Right…
God has given us what we need to make this right. We can celebrate God’s generous love and grace, we can invite others to share in this joy, and we can live humbly as forgiven people.
It’s not any specific behavior, or adherence to a particular doctrine, or religious ritual, or repetition of the right magic phrase that grants us the honor of a relationship with God – No, it’s Jesus who makes redemption possible. This privilege is ours to accept, or to reject.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that – through him, the world might be saved. – John 3:17
The invitation is on the table – DEREK