Christianity always was an inside-out proposition. We have tried over the centuries to reverse this reality, to conform Jesus’ revolutionary ideas back to religion proper; to nullify the New Testament; to undo the Reformation. But alas, the scandal of grace-through-faith continues to prevail.
Jesus’ redemption is offensively simple. Seems we want it to be harder, more complicated, more burdensome. If it’s free, how can it be good? Like that one U2 record the band gave away free to the world that just appeared eerily on your phone one morning, grace can be off-putting if we’re honest. Can we accept it if we didn’t have to earn it?
The Good News
Truth is, some of us feel like we have to have been a part of the work. Our sense of our own centrality can make us need to be somehow involved in something so meaningful if it is to be accepted. We want to be received because we made some progress, gained some ground, did something good.
The truth at the heart of God’s good news is that we didn’t, and we can’t. But God can, and he did. He loves us more than he hates our sin, so he satisfied his own sense of justice in an unimaginably selfless way. And in so doing, he made a way for us to be united with him before we get even one religious thing down.
A New Creation
Paul writes about this: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (2 Corinthians 5:17–18).
That is what we acknowledge and celebrate together with the sacrament of baptism. The simple decision to surrender to Jesus receives reconciliation in full upfront. We’re new creations all at once, not incrementally over time as we get religion right. In a flash. In an instant. Once and forever, the old is gone and the new has come!