Bethel Lutheran Church
333 E. Ridge Street
Pastors’ Monthly Article
This Lent, our Wednesday evening worship will include a courtroom drama— The People versus Jesus of Nazareth. These Lenten dramas will bring five people who knew Jesus to the witness stand, to help the jury decide if Jesus was a fraud— a liar— or whether Jesus truly is the Son of God and Savior of the world. The jury will decide. Should Jesus be found guilty of lying? Or should Jesus be freed to continue his ministry among us?
In our country, the legal system was designed so what happens in a courtroom will be fair. “Fairness” is something we as a nation value, even though it isn’t always easy to figure out what is fair.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in the city of Corinth, Greece. Paul explained how different God’s notion of fairness is.
We often think something is fair when everyone gets what they deserve: Those who work hard get rewarded with honors or advancement, and those who don’t work hard get left out. Those who follow the Commandments receive God’s blessing, and those who break the Commandments receive judgment.
There is truth in that. Many Bible verses talk about the blessings and rewards that come to the faithful followers of God’s Law. And that often is the way the world works. But that isn’t what happened to Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul writes, God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. (The Message)
Was it fair that Jesus— who fed the hungry, healed the sick, and raised the dead— suffered and died on the cross? Jesus should have been honored for his good deeds and miracles. Is it fair that we should get off scot-free, when we’re the ones who break God’s Commandments?
Jesus lifts up the “Great Commandment”: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” We often look for the faults of our neighbors, rather than forgiving and loving them, like Christ loves and forgives us when we fail.
Is it fair that we get off easy, when we’re the ones who break God’s Commandments? But God put the wrong on Jesus, who never did anything wrong, so each and every one of us could be put right with God. It isn’t fair, but it is God’s way. In the church, we call that “GRACE.” You see, God isn’t concerned with being fair. And we can be grateful for that! God wants to be kind and loving with us, even when we aren’t kind to each other. God takes our side, even when we don’t stand up for others. God goes beyond giving us “the benefit of the doubt,” and gives us mercy and pardon even when everyone knows we are guilty. That’s what we in the church mean by “grace.”
As Christians, our mission is to let God’s grace overflow among us. God invites us to believe that Jesus died on the cross for us and all people, believe that Jesus is who the witnesses say he is— the Son of God, able to forgive our sins and give us peace.
This Lent, each of us can “take a stand” and be a witness for Christ. Each of us are marked for who we are— made of the dust of the earth, marred by the ashes of our own sin, marked with the cross of Christ– now and forever!