For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Dear God, I wonder how much time James (brother of Jesus) and Paul spent together. It seems they might have had interesting conversations around the fire on this topic. Where does your grace end and our responsibility to perform works begin? Is there an unholiness line I can cross with you? Are there still places of service to others that I am not willing to go? Is that a problem for you?
I was at an event last night, and I talked with a man who has spent a lot of time trying to help people at the Texas/Mexico border. I literally found myself wanting to get out of the conversation because it was so hard to hear. He told me about people from Venezuela who wanted to go to university but couldn’t because if you go to university in Venezuela you are committing to go into the military, and they didn’t want to fight to support the existing regime. He told me about a woman in this situation who had smuggled herself out of Venezuela and now she is on the Mexico side of the border awaiting her asylum hearing. If it fails, she will be shipped back to Venezuela. And hers isn’t that bad of a story. No rape. No threats of physical harm. I would imagine her asylum request will be denied. I know there are worse stories out there. They are hard for me to hear and I would rather just not think about it.
Will you hold that against me? I think James would say I’m failing you. What would Paul say? Will you still save me, but be disappointed in me? Does your grace even cover up that disappointment? What would I have to say if I were part of that fireside chat between Paul and James? What do I think?
Father, I suppose that my mantra in serving you is that I should be adequately grateful for the grace you give that Paul describes in this passage. Forget how you respond to my actions. Forget if you reward or punish me based on my works or my level of gratitude. My conscience tells me that I need to be grateful to you, worship you, and then do whatever I feel like you are asking me to do. In fact, I’m glad that I’m thinking about last night’s conversation this morning because it has encouraged me to meet with this man and learn more. I want to hear if there is some way, maybe even a small way, in which I might be able to help. Almost 17 years ago I told you that I want to be willing to touch other people’s pain. I confess to you that I have still put limitations on that willingness. Lead me where you want me to go.
In Jesus’s name I pray,