Romans 3:21-22a - But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Some years ago, there was a notorious murderer and cannibal in the news. While in prison, he claimed to have become a Christian believer. My grandmother talked to me about it.
She said, "He won't be in heaven, will he? Not after what he did."
I bit my lip. "Um, yes, he will," I had to say. "If he really believes in Jesus, God will forgive him even for the horrible things he did."
My grandmother was outraged. "But that's not fair!" she exclaimed.
And she was totally right. It wasn't fair at all. How could God accept such a man? My grandmother had come right smack up against the most offensive thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- that God will accept anybody, literally anybody, who comes to faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.
That is what St. Paul is talking about in the passage for today. He says, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law ... the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." "Apart from the Law," he says. In other words, this righteousness that God is giving out has nothing to do with whether a person has kept the Ten Commandments. Nothing at all. It all depends on Jesus. Do you begin to get a sense of why this was so shocking to some of Paul's hearers?
It's still shocking, and not just with regard to criminals. What about God accepting us?
We may be respectable people. We may hold honored positions in the church or community. Young people may look up to us; we may even have received awards or recognition for the good things we do. And yet, deep down inside -- and maybe not so far from the surface -- we know the sin in our hearts. We know that we are really not respectable people, not if others knew the real truth about us. There are things that lurk in our dreams and desires that we would be ashamed to have anyone find out. There are words we have spoken that we try to forget -- deeds we have done that we hope never come to light.
And when we are forced to really notice our own sin and shame, we are devastated. Why should God accept someone like us? God should have better taste, we feel. That's when God's promise shines the most brightly: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" is available to everyone, even to us -- no matter who we are or what we've done. It isn't fair. It's much better than that. It's mercy -- through our Savior, who died on the cross for us, and who rose again to take away all our shame.
THE PRAYER: Dear Father, help me trust in You and believe the promise You give me -- that I can be forgiven and belong to You, through Your Son Jesus Christ. In His Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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