“[T]here is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:22-24)
Falling short is hard. We don’t like falling short, be that in sports, at work, in our homes, or in our own personal lives—not to mention our own moral and spiritual lives. Deep down we know that we fall short. But to compensate for our shortcomings, we’ve collectively (as a society) developed a measurable approach to life that gives the illusion that we aren’t doing too badly.
We count our steps. We measure our weight. We count our dollars. We calculate our good works. Yes, we are a society infatuated with measurements.
True, perhaps we are willing to recognize that we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God, but that hasn’t stopped us from measuring distances. (“I’m not as bad as he is!”) We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, seeing who has fallen shorter. We’re sizing up the competition. Who is closer to God, better behaved, more pious, holy, or devout? Rather than using God’s Law to diagnose our own sinful condition, we use it as a tool of measurement to see how we compare to others.
Our society is obsessed with measurements and keeping score. Everywhere we look, life has been turned into a competition that is all about “winning!” (Remember Charlie Sheen?)
Our lives are quantified.
This is how we are often pressured to live, sizing up our lives and comparing them to everyone else. And it can wreak spiritual havoc on our lives. It can create the misbelief that we have to turn to ourselves and our ability to please God so that we live life climbing a ladder of personally produced sanctification, rather than resting in Christ’s accomplishments achieved for us and then sacramentally and personally given to us.
Rather than using God’s Law to diagnose our own sinful condition, we use it as a tool of measurement to see how we compare to others.
The Apostle Paul’s words to the Romans give us some startling clarity about our ability to measure up: “[T]here is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23).
The sad reality is that we always lose when we try to measure distances. We lose our humility. We lose our humanity. We lose our hope. Sin weighs heavy. Try as we might, we always fall short. Life has been lost.
But the Good News is there is One who destroys all modes of measure and fulfills all demands to deliver, as Paul reminds us: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). The Gospel, you see, is a gift that is beyond all measure. It’s not quantifiable. The Gospel is a gift that is never earned, bought, or won by our efforts. It’s purely, beautifully, all a gift. We simply receive it by faith as the gift of grace that it is.
The love of Jesus is beyond all measure! Not because it doesn’t have a measurable value, but because the power and vastness of His love would break every instrument and tool that tried to measure it. He forgives us more sins than we’ve got. Jesus wipes the scorecard clean and puts His perfect score in our place.
We are freed from the pressure of having to do more and try harder. Our worth is not determined by what we have done or what we will accomplish, but by what Jesus has accomplished for us by His cross, suffering, death, and resurrection. We don’t even need to compare our lives to His life because Jesus gives us His life! By faith, Christ Jesus Himself goes to work in us, producing the desire and joy to serve others and do good works without worrying about how we are measuring up.
By daily exercising our faith, receiving Jesus over and over again (prayer, contrition, repentance, meditation on the Word), He is at work in us by the power of His Holy Spirit to live a sanctified, confident, and robust life of faith. With Jesus, no measurement is needed. We are His and He is ours. That is the Good News and it is for you!
By faith, Christ Jesus Himself goes to work in us, producing the desire and joy to serve others and do good works without worrying about how we are measuring up.
This article also appears in the January 2019 Lutheran Witness insert for the Minnesota South District. View the full insert with this article and additional news and encouragement here.