Romans 5:1-11; 3:28-30
This morning we take up with Paul again in his letter to the Romans. Today we begin to see the development of Paul’s thinking with regard to faith and how he is setting up his thinking about how we are saved by grace through faith.
Paul begins this development with words of encouragement and hope. Right out of the gate in this morning’s reading in v1, “1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Well then, that takes care of that. We’re justified, or another way of translating it made righteous, by faith and so then have peace with God through Jesus. This is a pretty good deal, really. I mean, peace with God is certainly a good thing to experience, I think.
I look at it this way. Each of us know that we sin on occasion and perhaps on more occasions than we think about. When we sin we know that God is not happy with us. Our usual immediate response is to deny that we have sinned and then hide from God so that we can just let our sin pass by kind of like a no harm, no foul call approach we see with quality refereeing in sport. The trouble is, there has already been harm since we’re distancing ourselves from God in our foolish attempt to hide our sin from God.
Since there really is harm there really is a foul and continuing the sports metaphor something must be done about it. The National Hockey League handles fouls, which they call penalties, in a very biblical fashion by sending the offender to the penalty box. Some announcers even refer to the penalty box as the ‘sin bin’ on occasion. The offender stays in the penalty box until the appropriate sacrifice is made, which means giving a goal to the other team, or their penalty time is up at which point they are released. See? Very biblical, right?
And like the Old Testament laws, punishments, and sacrifices, this model doesn’t work very well. Hockey players keep sinning against the NHL rulebook and getting sent to the sin bin in a never ending cycle of punishments and sacrifices. This does not work out to be a peace with the NHL rulebook kind of situation and likewise, our attempts to follow the rules and fail on an ongoing basis does not generate peace with God. Instead of creating never ending life and hope it creates a never ending cycle of death and despair.
This never ending cycle is a problem that God well understood and thus God put into motion a plan intended to sort out the cycle of death and despair and replace it with life and hope. God gave himself in Christ Jesus to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and in Christ’s resurrection our hope in eternal life is manifested.
This is how much God loves us. God’s love is not a fluffy, cheerful kind of happy, clappy love that shows up in cheesy cards on Valentine’s Day. Instead, God’s love is messy, total and complete, while sometimes seemingly harsh and always rooted in the self-sacrifice of God’s crucified Son. This is love at its most basic, its most real and its most fundamental but all the more powerful and long lasting for all that.
In that powerful and long lasting sacrificial love God has given us the opportunity to respond likewise. This is what Paul is talking about in v10, “10For 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.” Now that we’ve been reconciled to God, we can respond by living our lives as Jesus lived his life. In this, God has given us a roadmap to live in accordance with God’s will and while some of the fine details may be a little hazy, the general idea isn’t terribly complicated. It should be fairly clear to anyone around a person of faith for more than a few minutes. What? God’s will and desire is self-evident to someone not familiar with God just by being around a follower of Christ for a few minutes. Indeed yes. If we are living out the life that God calls us to.
That doesn’t mean we’re perfect people. I think we’ve established that fairly clearly and fairly often. We are not people who always do what we’re supposed to do and we often intentionally do the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing. The idea of sin is far more than an idea but a piece of reality that is with us all the time. That said, the way we live out our lives is the beacon of hope that our world is looking for. We can say all the right words, we can share all the right memes, but it is the way we live our lives that Bring Christ’s Love to Life and it is Christ’s love that changes the world.
A broken crayon can still color beautiful pictures. So it is with us. Our brokenness does not disqualify us from God’s love and forgiveness but rather our brokenness highlights what God has, is, and will do in and through us. That’s how the gospel, the good news, is shared with the world. Through not perfect people living out God’s love and life.