Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Growing up as a kid in the church, there are certain verses from the Bible that you learn, memorize and basically have engrained in your mind.  For example –

John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Encourage one another, and build each other up…

These are amazing verses indeed.  However, all of them are little snippets from longer passages, and I wonder what we miss by making them such small, bite size memorable chunks.

Here is where this is coming from.  Yesterday I was listening to a passage of scripture being read, and another one of these verses came up that I have had memorized since I was little.  However, hearing it read in the context of the larger section of scripture, I was amazed at the meaning and depth of the passage that I was missing out on.  I could do this for all of the above scriptures, but I won’t (unless asked…).  But I just want to take a look at the one from yesterday.

The short, bite-sized verse I have memorized is this:
Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This is a good verse.  It is a true verse, and even on its own, there is a lot to take away from it.  But on its own, where does this verse leave me?  What does this verse say about me, and about God?

I, like everyone, have sinned.  I have fallen short of the glory of God.  God has a standard to which we are to try to live up to, and I cannot do it.  I have disappointed God, and most likely he is angry at me because of this.  My identity is one of failure.  My relationship with God is one of shame.  I’ve messed up and he must be so disappointed in me. 

Now, some of those thoughts are true – I have sinned, I have fallen short, I cannot live up to God’s standard.  But I think where it goes wrong is the conclusions that can be reached about what that means for me, and who God is, what relationship with God is possible.

Bigger context –
Romans 3:21-24 – But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

How does this change the understanding of this verse?  

It’s not about me being a failure.  And it’s not about God being angry about that.  It’s about God already knowing how I have failed, how I can never be righteous on my own, and in His crazy love for me, for us, offering us a place at His table because of Jesus sacrifice on the cross.  God is not angry.  God gets it, that we cannot do this without Him.  All who believe are justified freely by his grace.  [justified – made right, validated, accepted…]  We are not just forgiven and therefore tolerated, yet still identified as a failure.  We are forgiven, accepted, made whole, and welcomed into God’s immeasurable love and grace.

When I read Romans 3:23 alone, I feel like a failure, and like God is always going to be fundamentally disappointed in me. 

When I read the larger context (P.S. – try reading all of Ch. 3, or even all of the book of Romans!) – I feel loved, and like God considered me worth fighting for – not because of who I am, but because of who He is.  And I do not feel like God is angry at me.  I feel like God wants me to get it too, to get what He has done for me, and to live as His redeemed child.  

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