(A treasure from the archives, while hubby and I are away celebrating this week.)
Dear Goin’-Solo Christian,
I’d like to tell you a story.
When my hubby and I were dating and I was doing the intense “get to know you questioning” phase – I asked him a zillion questions about his vacations, his friends, his hobbies, his pets etc… and also his schooling. I discovered that he had done a Masters at UC Berkeley – which was tremendously impressive to me – Berkeley was one of a handful of schools I had actually heard of in South Africa. As I quizzed him about Berkeley, I learned something interesting. I learned that you can finish up a Masters in Engineering at Berkeley in one of two ways. You have to take an exam to finish up – but you can either take a Masters exit exam, or you can do a PhD entrance exam, which not only finishes your masters but also gains you admission if you want to do a PhD later on.
You, friend, if you believe in Christ, have been “justified” by God – declared to be in the right with him. But I think that many of us have a view of justification that it is like an “exit” exam. It gets us out of the guilty seat in court, scot free. We have the idea that justification means we have a spiritual “white board” with all our sins written on it, and then in court Jesus wipes away all those sins and gives us a “get out of jail free” card. We think justification means that Jesus gave us a ticket out of the sin-exit exam.
But if you look at the way the Bible talks about justification – that’s not quite right. Justification is not just an exit exam. It’s not just picking up a get out of jail free card. If you’ll forgive the monopoly on these terms – it’s more like picking up a get out of jail free AND a “community card”. Because justification is more like a PhD ENTRANCE ticket- it gets you OUT of one program, and simultaneously admits you to another. Justification in Christ means that we are included in the blessed, forgiven people of God. Jesus gave us a ticket out of sin and into his community. And of course your sins needed to be forgiven to get there…. but that was just a part of it.
If we are in Christ, justification means we are part of God’s covenant community. There is no “us and them”. We were saved together, we worship together, we mess up and forgive each other… together.
Friend… or should I say sibling, if you think you can do Christianity alone, you should go ahead and call it something else; because it is not Biblical Jesus following. He died and rose again for US. Not me on my own. for US – his PEOPLE. We are PLURAL. No going solo.
I know the church is full of frustrating, broken, hypocritical people. Jesus didn’t come to save great people or reliable people. He saved wretches, and so you are quite right when you observe that the church IS full of wretches. But he loves us none the less. So please, come back.
If you’re going to fly, don’t be Amelia Earhart. Come be a duck: let’s fly together. You belong with us.