Summary: Even at are deepest, darkest, saddest, most unworthy moments of life, God shows God's love to us, and that happens in and through the person and work of God's very own son, Jesus Christ.
Who here wants to be perfect? Is there anybody who doesn’t want to be perfect? We spend a lot of time and energy trying to achieve perfection, don’t we? Women will spend hours in front of a mirror trying to make sure the hair and makeup are perfect, with every blemish covered. Guys will pump iron in the gym day after day after day trying to get that perfectly toned body. Every year, models grace the runways to inform us of exactly the perfect fashion for the season. We spend a great deal of our lives learning, and then trying to perfect, a certain skill or trade so that we can earn a living. So much of what we do demands perfection, doesn’t it? “Go big, or go home,” we are told.
The pressure to be perfect can be pretty overwhelming, can’t it? In all our efforts to attain perfection, we can get pretty stressed out. But carrying the burden of stress is not really a good way to live life. It can cause all sorts of problems for us, and for everyone we know and love. But there is a better way of life. A way that we can, in a sense at least, achieve perfection without all the stress. We talked about it last week, right? The free gift of God’s love offered to all people through the person and work of Jesus Christ. And Paul’s words essentially tell us that if we receive this gift in faith, then we can be perfect in the only way that matters; that is, in the way God sees us. Paul wasn’t just kidding when he said the gospel is power, was he?
Where we pick up in Paul’s letter to the Romans this morning, Paul has finished describing Jesus’ amazing work on the cross, and now he is beginning to unveil just how Christ’s work can change a person’s life. So what is it? A warm fuzzy feeling? A sigh of relief? A new understanding? Well, those things are part of it, but Paul doesn’t mince words here. He goes straight to the heart of the matter. “The result is this: since we have been declared ‘in the right’ (righteous) on the basis of faith, we have peace with God.” It’s more than warm fuzzys, or relief, or better understanding. It is the opposite of stress, and distress, and strife. It is peace. We can have peace.
This next section of Paul’s letter, what we know as chapters 5-8, are all about peace and hope. Paul is beginning here to build this picture of the Christian life in which all the promises of God are coming true. And at the center of these promises is the establishment of a loving, welcoming, personal relationship with God himself; a relationship which can give us peace and hope in the midst of all of life’s greatest difficulties.
I was listening to a radio show on a Christian radio station a week or two ago. The hosts were simply talking about the fact that God wants to have a deep, life-giving, personal relationship with every person. Then, this lady calls in. And she says, “I just don’t get it! It seems so ridiculous. If there even is a God, would he actually be concerned with every single one of his human creatures at every single moment. There are millions and millions of people out there, and here God is watching me tie up my shoelace! It’s so absurd!” Perhaps it does seem absurd, but the thing is, it’s the truth. Our problem with this truth is that we imagine God on far too small of a scale. The God revealed to us in the Bible, and especially through Jesus Christ, is so mysterious. Our God is the creator of the world, and rules over all of his creation. Still, at the core of all of God’s action and being is love, and the most natural outpouring of that love is to establish personal, one-on-one relationships with each of us.
And that’s where the hope comes in! In our constant pursuit of perfection, one of the realities is that we become acutely aware of all of our shortcomings. Right? If there is something about us that is not exactly the way we think it should be, we know that. And often times we become obsessed with it. We begin to feel weak, broken, and unworthy. And to that, Paul says, “While we were still weak…Christ died for the ungodly people…while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
So here’s what that might sound like to each of us, all of us individuals with whom God desires a deep relationship. “While you were still a gossiper, Christ died for you. While you were still an addict, Christ died for you. While you were still selfish, Christ died for you. While you were still a criminal, Christ died for you. While you were still a bully, Christ died for you. While you were still an adulterer, Christ died for you. While you were still ignoring the poor, Christ died for you. While you were still broken, and defiant, and apathetic, Christ died for you.”