Dear Christ Church Family,
We are currently trying to disinfect our surroundings and protect ourselves from any incoming threat of infection. But what about our spiritual, interior surroundings? Is there anything to do there? Consider Paul’s advice today.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
Galatians 2: Justification, Yet Again. The threat of Covid 19 infection seems so ever- present. We find ourselves constantly trying to keep everything disinfected, washed and safe. This includes our homes. Wouldn’t it be great if our homes could disinfect themselves, all surfaces antiseptically cleaned for us without having to even think about it? Well, our desires have been answered. AK Steel Corporation has reintroduced their 1,100-square-foot house made with special stainless and carbon steels. These alloys are coated with a compound that actually kills bacteria and fungi, including mold.
The home has a silver-based coating that does its disinfecting by interfering with various biochemical pathways in microbes. This antimicrobial compound covers kitchen appliances, door handles and the heating and air-conditioning system — places where little bugs and viruses like to live. It’s an innovation that creates a germ-free environment, and it could (could, unfortunately, is the operative word – it’s still in development) someday keep your house from becoming the neighborhood spider hole.
This self-cleaning house came to mind as I read today’s lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It has bearing on how we are to keep our inner self, that temple of God’s presence, spiritually clean. The concern is the cleansing of the inner person, where our thoughts are thought, our intentions are organized, our prayers are voiced, and our actions take shape.
In this part of Galatians, though, we notice that the housecleaning has already been done! That should be good news for all of us. Paul here is saying that we can abandon all notions of trying to apply some sort of antimicrobial righteousness to get our spiritual house in order. For us it means that no amount of volunteerism, church-attending, tithing, singing in the choir and the like needs to be applied to set our house in order. There is no silver-based substance we can apply to our souls. There is no sin-killing anti-viral compound that we can use to coat our hearts and minds. This deep cleansing of our inner temple home is something only God through Jesus Christ can do.
God does this through something we have talked about before: justification. This is where God justifies us as God’s own, as those who belong and are “right” with God, for simply having faith in Jesus. Look at verses 16 and 17. “Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by works…”
Justification means that this is how God looks upon us and loves us as God’s own who live by faith: Clean. Spotless. Immaculate. Antimicrobial purity. This is what the cross has done for us. Our house has been set in order. We are clean because we live by faith: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20). When it comes to being loved, accepted, and cherished by God as God’s own, that housework is done.
Of course, we all know that housework is never completely finished in this life. There is something of a disconnect here between who we are in God’s eyes, and how we often live our lives. We don’t always seem to be so clean, so nice, so caring, so loving, so patient, so understanding. In fact, too often we can be downright pushy, petty, spiteful, judgmental, pharisaical, impatient, unjust and intolerant.
There is internal housekeeping yet to be done. As Paul writes to the Colossians, “But now you must get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another …” (Colossians 3:8-9). Paul has other lists in other places as well. Clearly, God knows that we have a habit of tracking mud back into the house. But God will help us in putting even these things right in our lives. God will help us set our house in order by a process called Sanctification. (More on that in a moment…)
But, here’s the Good News: even though we still track mud back into the house of our lives, even though there is an on-going housekeeping problem, this does not change how God sees us, how God loves us. We continue to be justified by God, again, not because we are sinlessly clean, but because God declares us clean through our faith in Jesus. This means that God loves you just the way you are! It also means that God loves you too much to leave you that way. And that’s the Sanctification part.
Max Lucado, in his Just Like Jesus Devotional, really captures this idea with this story. When his daughter was a toddler, he used to take her to a park not far from their apartment. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached them. Max purchased her a treat, and when he turned to give it to her, he saw her mouth was full of sand. Where he intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt. Did he love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less his daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was he going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. He loved her right where she was, but he refused to leave her there. He carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why? Because he loved her.
“God does the same for us,” writes Max Lucado. God holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.”
So God cleanses us of everything that does not square with God’s image of us. God helps us clean out the dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed, selfishness, and pride. Of course, we can choose to prefer and keep the dirt. We do have to choose to let God help us. But, if we will, God will help us. Again, not to make us lovable in God’s eyes, but because we already are loved.