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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Today’s Reading | Romans 5:1-11

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. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (NRSV)

Justification is not a word we spend much time with in our twenty-first-century life, and yet it is central to the theological point that Paul is making in this passage from Romans and was the center of one of the main theological debates during the Reformation. In non-theological terms, justification is something that defends a particular action, whether that be a fact, reason, or explanation. For Protestants, justification was and is a way of explaining how an inherently sinful people could nonetheless be freed from the guilt of their sins: through faith in Christ (and not works, Luther shouts!), we are forgiven completely according to God’s grace.

While we have come to accept this as a standard aspect of our theology and don’t spend much time thinking about it, it’s worth dwelling for a second on what a powerfully radical view this is. God’s grace has primacy over anything we might do; we are forgiven even in instances in which we are undeserving, and truthfully, all of us are on some level undeserving. This grace transcends our understanding of fairness and justice, sometimes in thorny and even troubling ways, and it demands that we live our lives in a similar fashion.

We may not spend much time thinking about justification, but it encapsulates so much about how we as a church understand God to be: sovereign, gracious, merciful, and loving. Forgiven by God, even when we are undeserving, may we too strive to live lives that emulate that same grace and love.

Holy God, help me to live a life that honors your grace, mercy, and care—forgiving others because you first forgave me and loving others because that is who you are: love. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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