THINKING ABOUT "FAITH" vs. "WORKS"
“…But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3: 21-26)
…Say what?! This is one of the many complicated passages in St. Paul, dealing with the whole issue of “justification by faith” in Jesus Christ, rather than by “works” according to The Law. Let me suggest that we run into problems when we think about the question – Are we “justified” by faith or by works? – particularly when we just “think” about it. Because it is confusing when we just theorize about it, rather than try it.
But when I really try faith, – and by “faith” I mean really letting God be God in my life, rather than playing God myself, – I do receive God’s “grace as a gift,” which begins to make sense to me, of this whole issue. What happens in “faith” is that God’s “grace” or divine energies “rub off” on me, in a real, lived connection with Him, just like a relationship with any other living being influences me. This is not just a pleasant theory, but a lived experience. God’s divine energies restore in me His kind of effectiveness and efficiency, which enable me to proceed with my “vocation,” or the way that I, specifically, am to work and be in this world, according to God’s purpose and vision for me. So let me try faith today, and let God in, that I may be liberated from the various road-blocks of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, like anxiety and self-doubt, which arise from attempting to play God in my life. That divine role always proves too heavy for my imperfect, not-divine shoulders, already burdened with “former sins,” which I know too well, so I get blocked with anxiety and self-doubt. But God’s grace, which “passes over former sins,” taken on and overcome in His Son, instils in me His “righteousness,” so I can do the next “right” thing, baby-step by baby-step, in Him. Lord, let me let You in today, because I can’t, and don’t have to, do this on my own. Glory be to You.