Thursday, February 23, 2012
Grace and Works
Romans, and other writings of Paul tend to highlight the infinite separation between God and humanity that only the Grace of Jesus Christ can span. No action of humankind can transform us from sinners to saints. Martin Luther is said to have gone as to the extreme of adding a word to that well known verse in Romans 1:17. To the phrase, “The just shall live by faith,” some claim Luther added the words “alone” in his translation of the Bible to emphasize the failure of humanity to fulfill the Law of its Creator.
We like Grace. I would guess that all of us would prefer Grace over Justice. Justice convicts us of our failings. With Grace there is yet hope for us.
However, it seems that our modern culture has forgotten James as well. The call of James is a call to personal holiness. It involves a denial of the self, a setting aside of what I want and what I think and a bend my will to the will of Jesus Christ.
We have cast aside the righteousness of Christ and substituted our own. We hold to the forgiving God but reject the God of justice, the same God that is a consuming fire. We trade the clear meaning of Scripture of an explanation that always seems to confirm our own set of prejudices and viewpoints. Most often we do this through a total rejection of the Old Testament as outdated, irrelevant material that has been replaced by the New Testament.
Granted, without the grace of God, we spend an eternity apart from Him. However, once the grace of God enters our life we are called to abandon the old life and accept a whole new way of living, believing, acting, thinking, relating, and moving through the world. Discipleship is far more than a mental recognition of the historical person of Jesus Christ. It is a process of our own transformation into a living, breathing member of the Kingdom of God.
The early Church went as far as to declare the rejection of the Old Testament and the need for personal holiness a heresy and referred to it as Anitnomianism. It is time for us to recognize it as the same and to start the call to holiness where it is needed most, with ourselves. Any of us can point out the sins of others, but what the transformed and transfigured Christ calls us to do first and foremost is to allow the Holy Spirit working in the world to begin its work in us. Amen.