When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.
It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).
It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?
But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.
I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.
I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.
In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).
And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.
For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.
Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.