HOPE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IN OUR SELF-REGARD
Wednesday, November 30th
Merit: to be worthy of or entitled or liable to; earn; deserve
Mercy: lenient or compassionate treatment; a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
As people of faith, we are called to regard ourselves with humility. Jesus exemplified humility, and the Bible includes several passages encouraging us to do the same. For example, we read about humility in Romans 12:3: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Oh, this challenge of “sober judgment”! I know I am not perfect. I just hate to be reminded. 😉
But the good news of our Advent Hope today is found in God’s tender, loving, generous mercy, a mercy beyond our human capacity. In Christ, we now understand how God’s love for us came first – before we could even attempt to merit it.
…God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. (Ephesians 2:4-9 NRSVUE)
I want my life to be worthy of God’s love and abundant blessings. I feel an inner joy when I try to live obediently, when I hope to please God by living and serving well. My gratitude toward God seems to foster my desire to merit God’s goodness.
But when I feel broken, lacking, and unlovable, I feel God ever drawing me closer. My love for God deepens in gratitude through my unworthiness, in humility through my guilt, in tenderness through my regret, and in trust through my need. I can bring my sorry self to rest in God’s unwavering love, a love that understands, corrects, forgives, uplifts, and guides me into new life.
Advent Hope can make the difference in our self-regard. The Hope revealed to us in Christ – the gracious, initiating love of God – can replace our need to merit with our trust in God’s mercy.
We are to regard ourselves as humble – but also as dearly loved.
The Advent Hope that transforms merit into mercy not only changes the way we regard ourselves, but also the way we regard and treat one another. God’s initiating love has come for every one of us; we are invited to initiate love, too. We are all part of God’s beautiful creation, made in love but also for love. And so, this Ephesians passage then closes with these words:
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NRSVUE)
Amen. May it be so this Advent season.