Christians trust in righteousness of God

Published 4:05 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Jack Alvey
Alvey is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma.

What is a Christian?  I know that this might sound like a strange question to ask especially in a culture where Christianity is a cultural norm. But it is a question that is worth asking especially during a time when there are so many competing claims about what “church” possesses the truest form of Christianity. Can you imagine how confusing this dynamic might be to a “non-Christian”?

It seems that the most damaging idea that is formed about Christianity is that Christians are somehow morally superior to those who are not Christian.  It seems that many have reduced Christianity to a moral adherence to the law. And if one does not adhere to the law, then they somehow fall from grace.

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We live in a culture that craves stories about those who have fallen from grace especially stories that detail the demise of the rich and famous. Ever wonder why? I believe we do this because we are desperately trying to justify our own fallenness.  If we can hear a story about somebody else’s big mistake, then we don’t feel so bad about our big mistakes.

A Christianity that is reduced to morality is a Christianity that breeds judgment. And this judgment of others is how we justify ourselves.  This judgment of others puts a wall up in our hearts and in our communities. Judgment puts up the same wall that Christ destroyed on the cross. Judgment as a form of self-justification does not trust that Christ died not only your sins but for the whole world (1 John 2:2).

St. Paul notes in his letter to the Romans that just because we have the knowledge of the law and commandments of God that does not mean we will act according to that knowledge. In fact, the knowledge of the law and commandments makes us painfully aware of our own brokenness and sin. Like St. Paul, the law moves us to say, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:19).

Simply put, the knowledge of the law does not draw us closer to God. Instead, the knowledge of the law highlights just how far away we are from God and neighbor. But the hope of Christianity says that God draws us to his heart through the great love of his Son Jesus Christ, a love that goes all the way to the cross and beyond.

In God’s great compassion for the world he sent his only son to suffer death for the sin of the whole world. The compassion of God, seen most clearly in Christ crucified, breaks down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14). The compassion of God breaks down the walls built by judgment. I’ll ask again, “What is a Christian?” A Christian is somebody who trusts not in their own righteousness but in the righteousness of God in Christ.

A Christian is somebody who trusts that the only power that can save a world of sin and brokenness is the power of the compassion we know through God in Christ.

May the world know we are Christians by the great compassion we have received in Christ, a compassion that God desires for all the brokenhearted to know.