Saturday, May 12, 2012

Our failures constitute Christ's victory

Jesus' Easter victory is our victory, or so we profess, at least according to the logic of lex orandi, lex credendi (literally- the law of prayer is the law of belief, more accurately how we pray articulates what we believe). I'm going a bit more radical, a bit more Martin Luther, who, in a letter to Philipp Melanchthon wrote: "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." This is actually to take one's cue from St. Paul, who wrote to Christians in ancient Rome: "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV). I would suggest that our failures are Christ's victory.

Christ Triumphant Over Sin & Death, by Peter Paul Reubens ca. 1615-1622

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:4- ESV). This is why Christians should never be discouraged. Discouragement means you are relying on yourself, thinking you are your own savior, which leads to the temptation of giving up, throwing in the towel. Friends, we know how it ends, we win! We are always already victorious. So, be neither afraid nor discouraged. It's like going to confession. We don't go to confession to find out whether God will forgive us. We're always already forgiven. We go to experience God's love and mercy firsthand, up close and personal.

This is the boldness of the Gospel, which is why it is attractive and doesn't need to be watered down, to be made difficult because of our individual and sometimes collective need to feel we are righteous, which is nothing but self-righteousness. The Church is screwed up because we're screwed up, which is why we chose and were called to belong to Christ, who is ever-faithful, especially when we are not.

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