I am reminded each time I devote time to the reading of sacred Scripture how much of it remains unknown to me. Who can comprehend it all? What mind can grasp or contain it all? For something new is revealed to me each time that I open to a book or a letter. A new truth arises; a realization is given.
This morning, I am reading from the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans. In chapter three, he says, “…all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one'” (9-10). He says a later, “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of othe glory of God” (22-23). In chapter four, he turns to Abraham, the father of our faith, in his discussion of the believer’s justification by works or by faith:
“What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor, according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one wo without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness” (4.1-5).
There is nothing that I or you have done that causes God to deem us righteous. There is nothing that “my people” or your people have accomplished in time past or present that places either above or beneath any other cultural group. Nothing that we have made can compare to the things that God has created: “Ever since the creation of the world, his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen throught the things he has made” (1.20). And though we may say it and we profess to believe it, we are bombarded by social messages that would suggest otherwise, that lead us to a different truth and claim upon which to stake our lives. We then begin to wrestle with flesh and blood and not the powers of darkness because the fight is redefined as us against them and not God against Satan (Ephesians 6.12).
Thus, it is necessary to remind ourselves everyday that our righteousness, our right-standing with God is secure through faith in Jesus Christ (3.21-22). As believers, we are never to be self- satisfied. We must live this truth and not take pride in the accomplishments of our respective cultures, our families or even our personal successes. There is nothing that we do or that our ancestors have done to deserve such a judgment, this righteousness from God. Despite the claims of eugenicists past and today’s scientists who attempt to prove the superiority of cultural groups according to the social construct of race, sin is the great equalizer. It is the category that we all fit into and it renders our boasting useless. As Christ’s disciples, we boast only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6.14).