Inspired by Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
“Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Romans 4:4-5 (NRSV)
The relationship between works and righteousness is one of the most misunderstood relationships in Christendom. We believe that we are called to obey God, and that God commands us to do good works. We also believe that obedience to God means we are righteous before him. However we also believe that we are justified by grace and not by works, yet we condemn those who do not perform the proper works as being unworthy of God’s grace. How exactly are we to make sense of all this?
When God calls us to him, he calls us not because we have earned his favorable attention, but because we’re in need of his grace. And when he calls us, his grace and justification come with his call. His call itself is the gift of righteousness, before we’ve done anything at all to deserve it. It’s not our due; it’s his generous gift.
Once we’re in relationship with him we benefit from his presence, and he changes our perspective and approach to the world. We look at our sisters and brothers through his eyes, recognizing in them inherent value and dignity we may not have noticed before. We work to bring justice to the powerless and love to the despised not because we believe such things will earn God’s favor, but because our dynamic relationship with God has transformed our own values.
While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and every good work we do now is in response to that gift.
Let us pray. God of grace, you call us not because of our goodness, but because of our need for you. Write your word on our hearts, that we may work to reflect your love to all the world. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.