Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just a Sinner...

...saved by grace. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that description of a Christian. In the fundamentalist circles in which I grew up, that idea was drummed into our heads from the time we confessed faith in Christ. Along with that we heard Paul's admonition to not think of ourselves more highly than we should, and Isaiah's statement about our righteousness being filthy rags. We were taught that we really are nothing more than unprofitable servants, who serve God and others because that's what we are servants.

There seems to be a bit of tension in the New Testament between the passages that speak of us as servants and the ones that speak of us as children and heirs of God. In our gathering last Sunday, we were talking about how we often see ourselves more lowly than we should, rather than more highly. If we see ourselves as merely sinners saved by grace and unprofitable servants, then our service becomes something less than following the example of our Master. It becomes something that we do because our lowly status compels us rather than the love of Christ.

It is true that we can do nothing to save ourselves, that we need the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to go through our day-to-day. It is also true that if we are in Christ, we are his friends. We are sons and daughters of the Creator. Hebrews 2:11 says that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. As we go through our lives we are being shaped into the likeness of Christ. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, individually and collectively. That doesn't sound like people who are just unprofitable servants.

Jesus served. He is the ultimate example of what it means to serve others. How did he serve? Did he serve because he had to, because he was just a servant? No. Jesus served as one who was the Lord of all. He served completely voluntarily, giving us the supreme fulfillment of the two greatest commandments; love God, and love others as ourselves. That is how we are to serve, voluntarily in love because of who we are. Who we are is the image of Christ in this world. We are children of the living God, and we have the calling and privilege to join in God's mission to restore all things. We don't have to love and serve in a sniveling manner. A Christian who thinks of themselves too lowly does not serve sacrificially or lovingly.

If we see ourselves as God sees us, as beloved children who bear the image of Christ, we can then begin to serve as Jesus did. We can truly begin to love God and love others as ourselves.

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