Romans 3:19-28 (NRSV)
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
My mom was strict. She laid down the law. Not just God’s law, but also rules like “don’t dry your hands with the dish towel” and “never let anything go to waste.” It was hard to please her. Even so, there was never a shred of doubt that I had a place in my family—a home to go to—a place I belonged. If I disobeyed, though, I could expect to pay a price.
Consequently, I tend to think about God that way. I trust that I am sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. But I know I’ve fallen short. How can I presume to come into God’s presence and expect mercy and forgiveness … again? How can there NOT be punishment? How can it be that Jesus paid the price for MY sin? Well, I guess there are still earthly consequences, but God promises forgiveness every time. Furthermore, in Christ, God takes my bad choices and even their consequences and uses them for good, in me and in the world.
Holy God, your promises free me from the fear of eternal death. I know I am yours and have a place with you always. Forgive me my continual tuning away from you. Forgive me for clinging to my own self-made worthiness. Make me ever more yours. Amen.