Think about this! While we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed his powerful love to us in a tangible display -the Anointed One died for us.’ That’s how the VOICE translates Romans 5:8. (the MESSAGE says ‘when we were of no use whatever to Him’). So, regardless of the translation you read, the embarrassing yet unmistakable point is we were chosen (not willy-nilly, not Plan ‘B’, but by Divine Fiat!!) when we were the furthest possible from being choosable (picture us being caught with our hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but with our sin multiplied times infinity). Appropriately, one of our older Vineyard worship songs says, ‘Naked and poor, wretched and blind I come. Clothe me in white, so I won’t be ashamed’. The sublime truth here is that coming to Jesus takes all our nakedness, our poverty, our wretchedness, and our blindness and fully absorbs them within the light of his glory. This understanding was startlingly new to Jesus’ disciples and it took them years to ‘get’ it and make it an integral part of their teaching to the new churches springing up everywhere.
It is tragic that the church, made up of loved and accepted and weak and sinful men, recreated walls and barriers and restrictions and patterns of shame, making the average guy on the street convinced of his unredeemability. Fast forward 1500 years or so to a German monk named Martin Luther, who, in his own reading of the book of Romans, rediscovers the message of grace imparted to all who come to Jesus. His insistence on the Word’s supremacy over everything of man got him into lots of church trouble, but simultaneously got him (and us) delivered from those manmade forms of bondage. Here’s a fascinating paragraph from one of his letters to a good friend, Melanchthon, (ca. 1521): “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small?” (In his biography of Luther, Eric Metaxas here adds this note: ‘Luther was hardly saying that Melanchthon should try to sin, as many have misinterpreted this quotation, but that he should forget about trying not to sin, because in the end this was not possible. He must understand that in all we do, we will doubtless sin – because we are sinners – but if our faith is in Christ, who has already defeated sin and paid for our sins on the cross, we are redeemed.’
If we, also, are shocked at this statement, I think it is because we’ve inherited some manmade forms of bondage which have served to diminish our view of the vast, sweeping character and enduring quality of our salvation, and at the same time, have served to over-magnify our sense of unredeemability. John Wimber would say of himself (and all of us): ‘Even on the best of days, I’m up to no good.’ (meaning, of course, like Luther, he was forever and always mindful of his sinfulness on the one hand and even more humbled by his overarching belovedness on the other). So, are we sinners? Yep. Are we saints? Yep. Are we loved and accepted and weak and sinful? Yep! Your grateful, happily humbled, PD.