“For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).” —Romans 10:5-8.
Acceptance and approval seem to be a pervasive disease in our 21st Century cultures. The advancement of technologies has tapped deep into the roots of the human psyche. Are we addicted to the ping of a mobile device in some conditioned ways? Do we suffer the disease of the need to be needed? People fill their hours doing more to be accepted more. Could it be that the rejection in the Garden of Eden cut through so profoundly into every particle of our humanness that still strive never to be rejected again? We seek approval by doing right and trying to be liked not fully believing that we are already loved.
If we jumped through every hoop and followed exactly Moses’s law, we would still not earn the full acceptance of God.
The basis of engaging the Father of all Creation is not about merely achieving the “rightness” of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was essentially like the first instruction given to the first humans: “Do not eat of the fruit of that tree.” It was a simple instruction based on the strength of a holy relationship. It is expected that love will always respond as deep trust in obedience to a better way.
The righteousness achieved through faith is relational. Trying to tick all the boxes of the law is a requirement and does not depend on a relationship. Faith is a quality of connection that can be counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Faith is centered on the strength of intimacy and relationship. When my daughter was about three years old, she quickly climbed to the top of an ascending escalator. Her “Powerpuff Girls” branded shoes made her do it.
The edge of her pants caught on the lip of the ascending escalator, and the brutal, steel, ribbed, step machine continued to munch its way through the fabric, tightening around her leg. She began to panic. It felt like an hour, but it all lasted only a few seconds. I jumped across to the descending set of moving stairs, fighting against the flow of a small group of people. I spoke loudly and clearly to her: “Daddy is here. It will all be okay! Lift your hands.” When she saw and heard me, she calmed down. In the nick of time, I hit the emergency stop button.
My little girl’s trust and faith in me brought her into a state of calmness. She stopped panicking. She stopped trying to pull herself free with her tiny hands and listened to every word I spoke. She lifted up her hands and avoided getting her tiny little fingers stuck in the teeth of the escalator.
Responding to God’s law must come from a loving, trusting relationship of faith. “Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them’” (Romans 10:5). But the way to do what God requires must begin by having faith.
Gabriel Benjiman currently serves as the regional education and clergy development coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in Africa. He holds graduate and postgraduate degrees in theology and social sciences. Gabriel and his wife, Mary, along with their two daughters, live in South Africa.
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