The Un-Work of Faith

Thursday, March 8, 2018
Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

One way to start figuring out what something is, is by describing what it ISN'T. For instance, friendship is NOT one person being there for the other but not the other way around. Friendship, on the other hand, is NOT just scratching the other's back once they've scratched yours. This gets me closer to a definition of friendship as two people who tend to each other with support and accountability but do not give up on the other simply because one fails the other here and there.

In Ephesians 2, we read a good example of defining through the negative, in this case defining what grace is by comparing it to what's called works righteousness:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life" (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Works righteousness is described as the idea that a person can be saved—be in right relationship with God—by what they DO. Much of what Martin Luther was concerned about when the Reformation got started is that the Catholic Church at the time had fallen into a practice of promising eternal rewards for people in response to the things they did (in large part, giving money to the church!).

Ephesians says, it's crucial that people do good things—that's what "God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." But if we earn God's love then are we doing it for the right reasons or in order to compete? And is it really love on our part or God's if we have to earn it?

God's love and salvation is a gift we don't earn, Ephesians clarifies. And that begins to help us say what grace is: "not of your own doing," an undeserved gift that is offered to us nonetheless. A gift of forgiveness, salvation, and love. A gift we see embodied in Jesus Christ. A gift that can only be accepted by the un-work, which we tend to call 'faith.'

Faith between friends is one thing, because it tends to be a equitable relationship, but faith in God is inherently un-balanced. We can't earn God's love, but we must rely on God for the fate of our being both now and forever. Faith is both the un-work and yet the toughest thing to embody, because we WANT to earn and CONTROL our fate.

I don't think we ever fully get over our desire to work for God's love, but loving God daily seems to help us get closer to embracing God's gift for what it is. I appreciate Lent as a time to work toward NOT working for God's love!

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