“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14
Sometimes we think would like to stand before God on our own record. I must admit that I can hardly keep from wincing when I hear otherwise Lutheran Christians protest, “But I am a good person!” They may be decent citizens from the world’s point of view, but do any of us really think that the all-seeing, all-knowing God is going to buy such a claim from any one of us? Over 900 years ago St. Anselm warned people who took pride in their own shallow and external morality, “You have not yet considered how great your sin is.” We do well to take that warning to heart today, especially when the advertising industry keeps pumping us full of messages that say, “You deserve more!” “You deserve better!” and dozens of talk show hosts reaffirm the myth of basic human goodness. If it were true, you wouldn’t need God to go with you with his grace.
Many would say that I am terrible for denying you such a sense of personal pride, but that approach to God and to life is a terrible merry-go-round to get on, and hard to get off. There is no peace there, only a life that is relentlessly driven by the quest to be good enough. There is no freedom there, only slavery to a set of expectations that is always beyond our reach, if we are honest. There is no confidence that God loves you there, only a nagging fear that you are falling further behind on his demands.
The Apostle Paul wants to spare you of this. He wants you to know that God goes with you with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at how Jesus gave! Was there ever a person, whether heartless Pharisee or public sinner, for whom Jesus ever wanted anything but the best and the kindest, whom he wanted anything other than to love with his whole heart? “While we were still sinners,” Paul assures us, “Christ died for us!” He fully intends to show that kind of favor to you for the rest of your life— no matter what you do! You cannot commit a sin so serious that he would no longer be willing and even wanting to forgive it. God has set his heart on you. In the life and death of Jesus that heart showed that no cost was too great to make you his own. Today he wants you to know that, no matter what, that same grace, that same gift, that same favor goes with you, wherever you go.