‘… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23,24 NIV).
What an amazing, generous God we have! While we humans anxiously wring our hands and get sore heads from worrying about who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out, what we should do and what we shouldn’t do, God just comes along and overturns it all.
That’s because God judges people differently. God’s verdict on us doesn’t depend on what we do. ‘It has nothing to do with the law’, St Paul writes in Romans 3. Rather, God judges us according to what Jesus has done. ‘God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ … ’
God justifies us – declares us not guilty – because Jesus did everything right for us and paid the penalty for us. He did this for all our sin and all our guilt, even if we are the very worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Because of him God declares the whole world ‘not guilty’. That’s how radical our God is. ‘Believe in Jesus’, God says, ‘trust him, have faith in him, then you will be right with me’. And even our belief, trust and faith aren’t things we do. The Holy Spirit gives them to us – they too, are a gift.
So the first thing we learn as Christians is not to justify ourselves. No matter how hard we try to do that, it always ends in sin and failure.
Instead, we must look to Jesus. In him we hear God’s clear verdict of ‘not guilty’. God acquits us because Christ has redeemed us.
The second thing we learn is not to judge others. We extend to other people the same grace we have received. We grow in seeing them as God sees us – sinners whom he declares ‘not guilty’ for the sake of Christ. God treats everyone the same, you and me and our neighbours. We just want everyone to share in this good news!
Every person is precious to God and everyone is equally loved. We don’t judge. That’s God’s business, God’s mystery, and it’s God’s alone.
We know what we need to do: we are to love other people just as God has loved us. With all their flaws, failures, successes, pride, personality disorders, crazy notions, indifference or excesses of passion – God loves people just as they are. None of us need to pretend that we’re better (or worse) than we are. And when we fail, as we do, Jesus is there, to love us, forgive us, and put us back on our feet.
We can revel in this wonderful newfound freedom, praising God from morning until night! We don’t need to have a care in the world. We are free! What a loss if we bottle that freedom up and refuse it to others! When we don’t show love, grace and forgiveness to others, we make problems for ourselves as well as them. How can they then know the love of Jesus? How can we then say that we really believe in him? How can the Holy Spirit still nurture faith in our hearts?
There was once a popular saying, ‘Let go, and let God’. Our daily faith challenge is to truly believe and trust God. In Jesus we can meet this challenge every day. It doesn’t wear us down, because every day Jesus sets us free – an amazing gift of grace from our amazing, generous God.