W E HAVE A GOD who loves us.
We have a God who loves us so much that, even when we were (and are) weak, God sent his only Son. We have a God who loves us so much that, while we were (and are) sinners, God sent his only Son.
We have a God who loves us so much that, even when we were (and are) enemies of God, and enemies of each other, God sent God’s son.
We have a faithful God who was and is willing to go to any length to reconcile us.
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THAT IS THE PORTRAIT of God painted by Paul in Romans 5. That portrait is in harmony with the God revealed to us by Jesus.
This is the God who will search high and low for us when we are lost and have wandered off. A shepherd seeking one lamb. A woman scouring the house for a coin. Ours is the God who runs out to meet us, the prodigal daughters and sons.
And this is a God who forgives us seventy times seventy times. Or, to use a more contemporary phrase, God forgives us a gazildy bazillion times.
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THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS is this: Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus was sent by God. This Messiah did not demand riches and power. This Christ did not conquer the city on a horse of war. Rather, this Anointed One rode to his battle on a donkey, a beast of burden.
For us he dared to die; to offer his blood so that we would be saved. And it is through his death we have been reconciled to God. It is through his death we are no longer weak. Through his death, our sins have been forgiven.
Through his death, we are no longer enemies of God.
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REPEATEDLY Paul reminds us that we are not able to work hard to justify ourselves. We cannot, on our own, bring about our reconciliation with God. We cannot be made right with God through our own efforts. Weak efforts, at best.
Reconciliation happens only through God’s love and grace. It is a gift of God. Without the death of Jesus, we all would stand before God guilty and condemned.
Instead, we stand in God’s grace. To hear this, to know this, gives us confidence.
There is never a time or place without God. There is never a time or place where we are without God’s amazing grace. When we believe this, we begin to experience the peace that Paul writes of in verse 1:
“Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’’
This peace, this shalom, arises in us when we live in confidence that our lives and our world are in the hands of One who loves us.
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THE ABUNDANCE of God’s grace, lavishly poured out on us, gives us peace, life, and hope. We are God’s people — made one with him. Christ has bridged the chasm that separated us from God. That’s good news.
Praise God for abundant grace. Grace that saved a wretch like me. Praise God that I was lost but now am found. Praise God for grace that pardons and cleanses. Praise God for grace poured out when I was too weak, too uncaring, too filled with sin to even know about God’s powerful grace.
This is also good news for people whom we think least deserve grace. It’s easy to praise God for the grace shown to us in Jesus Christ. It’s harder to recognize that God’s grace is big enough for the sins we think of as the greatest. Grace for people we feel are least deserving.
If we aren’t careful, we can slip into the error of imagining that there are limits to God’s grace and that there’s not enough to go around.
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PAUL’S JUBILANT WORDS of peace and hope and reconciliation and justification are words for all people. People who are weak. People who are defiant. People who are powerless. People who are rebellious.
Are there people you think of as beyond redemption?
Are there opportunities for outreach and justice work that you shrink away from out of fear that grace is simply not big enough?
Are you willing to make an individual commitment to proclaiming grace this week in a place you normally would not?
Maybe a simpler question. Since you joyously have been lavished with God’s grace, who will you lavishly extend grace to this week?
Ask the Spirit for the strength and compassion to follow through.