Thought for the Day: Can faith save you? This is one of the great questions of Christian history, specifically emerging from The Protestant Reformation. As you may know, there was quite the battle between salvation by faith and salvation by works. Basically the question was whether someone got to heaven by their good deeds or their faith in Jesus. The Book of James was an outlier, especially during the Reformation. I know that some will think I am an outlier, though in fact, I am not alone in my thinking when I say that they are both a bit wrong. Both salvation by works and salvation by faith, at least in their purest sense, don’t have an appreciation of grace. Salvation by works can easily put people on the hamster wheel of righteousness, doing more and more and more, yet not feeling like they are doing enough. There is never peace, never any break from the anxiety. At the same time, salvation by faith has always been a linguistic game where the rules change regularly. What defines faith? I have heard people say, “All you need is faith in Jesus.” But that statement is immediately followed by their unique exclusions, caveats and list of dos and don’ts. It may sound more pious, but The Protestant Reformation, in my opinion, has brought us to the very same place as salvation by works. Faith – in all of its rhetorical twists and stylistic gymnastics – has put people on another hamster wheel of righteousness. They are both running the religious rat race, a race that many are quick to claim a victory is within reach… but it usually ends when one collapses from exhaustion inside the wheel. At the end of the day, I do not believe it is works or faith that save a person. It is grace, and grace alone.
Prayer: Wherever Christians are pushing something other than your grace, O God, there is usually an alternative motive, such as power or money. There have been so many moments in our history when groups have got folks on the hamster wheel of righteousness, hoping they’d never notice what the institution was doing or not doing. Forgive us when we join those games where no one can really win. Bring us, once again, to your grace. Allow for the life of Jesus, the embodiment of grace, to become our source of liberation and inspiration. Amen.
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