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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 3:10–18  

As it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (NRSV)

We’re now well into Lent, and if we have done our work—if we have truly taken stock of our lives, the results of our thoughts, words, and actions—maybe now we’re feeling spiritually low. It’s not easy to endure an extended period of honest confession about the state of our souls.

Even a genuine saint like Mother Teresa experienced the pain of knowing her own unworthiness. Her letters, published after her death, revealed an inner turmoil. If a person like her could doubt the assurance of God’s presence in her life, what chance can people like us have?

Paul’s answer is clear. We don’t. None of us. He quotes from the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes and from the anguished voice of the psalmist to make clear the message of scripture for God’s people: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.”

Yet even while expressing condemnation, Paul does something that I find hopeful. The scriptures he quotes are not all exactly the same. The people who are not righteous, who lack understanding, who have turned aside to become worthless—the original scriptures are referring to Judah’s enemies and to the people of Judah themselves. We’re all in the same tragic situation. We need a solution that is big enough to hold us all. Exclusive solutions that seek their foundation in some goodness that only we (and those like us) possess will always fail us.

Consider what this meant for Paul’s message about the salvation God was offering in Jesus Christ and what followers of that Jesus must emulate as they seek solutions to the problems of today’s world.

Holy God, I know that I am unworthy of the gifts of your grace, that I have so often failed you and those around me. Help me to be honest about my life and my actions. Help me to know that I am united with all those around me in my brokenness and in my failure to faithfully live into your will. But help me to have hope as well. Help me to know that the relationship and love you offer in Jesus is enough for all people—even me. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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