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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 5:1–8          

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through 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. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (NRSV)

Reflection
The careful student of Scripture will find such an abundance of themes in these eight verses from Romans chapter five as to require repeated reading. That’s OK. Read it again. And then again. Hover over “justified” and “faith,” “glory” and “sinners.” These soaring terms are the linguistic pillars upon which the church’s theology and polity are built, and they are no less disruptive in twenty-first-century Chicago than they were in first-century Rome. That we are justified, that is that our standing before God and humanity is a gift and that it derives neither from our family tree or what we ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast, is the kind of assertion that will change your life if you let it.

Not that it makes life easy. When I was a child my family attended a church that taught a proportionality of faith and struggle. Success in life--including material success--was thought to be a sure sign of God’s favor and a reward for piety. Suffering meant you had work to do.

I can barely imagine anything more directly opposed to Paul’s understanding of the gospel here. Instead of an indictment, the suffering that we experience as people of faith is the beginning of a chain of sanctification. That’s another “pillar” word, which only means our improvement or our being made holy by God. The chain runs from suffering to endurance to character to hope. Not that it’s an unbroken chain or that it’s a four-step process, but that, in God, suffering is less a symptom of sin than fuel for the fire of growth.

Of course Jesus suffered. Our suffering is bound up in his, as all of our life is. Thanks be to God.

Prayer
Lead us from suffering to endurance to character to hope, O God, that we may boast not in our own strength but in your grace and mercy and that we may indeed grow daily into a people that reflects your love and mercy to the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry


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