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June 11, 2020

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Romans 5:1

As a Lutheran, Romans 5 (part of which is our epistle reading this Sunday) is at the heart of my understanding of God’s reconciling work with humanity. We are not, as Paul writes earlier to the Church at Rome, justified by our works. We have been justified by God’s “grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). What a gift grace is, to know that through Jesus Christ there is literally nothing we need to do to earn our salvation. God has done it all, and gifts it all to us.

But we, sinful creatures that we are, can turn even God’s grace against itself. We can make the mistake of thinking that just because there’s nothing we need to do, there’s nothing we need to do.

This, I imagine, is the reason a friend of mine recently shared on social media that he doesn’t trust Christians who make too much of the doctrine of justification by faith. It can make it too easy to do nothing. To be quiet in the face of evil and injustice. To turn a blind eye to suffering.

I’m not willing to give up on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. To add anything to this, any requirement that I contribute to my salvation, would drive me to despair. I am too far gone, and I need Jesus. I’ll cling to him and trust that he is enough.

But I dare not make the mistake of thinking that justification is only about my salvation. Think about typing a paper or a letter. How do we organize the type? Usually by justifying it along the left margin. We don’t start each line of text willy-nilly. We justify it. This is what God does with us, drawing us out of sinful selves, saving us, and then properly arranging us to do God’s work in the world. Justified by faith, we are set free to do God’s work.

You, friends, have been saved by Jesus, and there’s nothing you need to do. So what are you going to do with this gift?

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of grace, we rejoice in your free gift of salvation by grace through faith. Set free, we are are called to join you in your work. Help us to stand with those who suffer, to strive for their well-being, and to share the hope we have in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Apostle Paul by Jan Lievens, circa 1627-1629 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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