Smuggling values as works

"God loves me because I do good and avoid doing bad things"

Few, if any, evangelical Christians would make a statement like that.  We've been trained too well.  The echo of Luther's protest against Rome continues to ring in our ears and in our theology.

We know how to respond when we see a passage like Luke 18, where the Pharisee stands up to pray and says:
God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.
We know that the Pharisee's fasting and his attention to the tithe won't get him anywhere with God.  We know that his pride and self-exaltation, his looking down on everyone else is offensive to God.  And we look down on him.

Taylor Bodoh, the InterVarsity campus minister at FSU, pointed this our during the Florida Staff Conference.  We Protestants know better to smuggle in our works as righteousness, but we don't cease to be smugglers.

We have perfected smuggling values as works.

We value Scripture, justice, evangelism, worship, theology, multi-ethnicity, reconciliation, preaching, personal holiness, families, compassion, children.  You could make a long list.

And our temptation is to think that the love of God rests on us because we carry these values.  We don't pay indulgences, but we indulge in pride.

The gospel of Jesus calls us to abandon our reliance on everything other than his life, death and resurrection as we seek reconciliation with God.  Works, values, theology: all these flow from the gospel, but will never replace the gospel as a means to connect us to God.

What do you think would happen if we ceased priding ourselves in our values?

This post is one of several reflecting on Luke 18, which the InterVarsity Florida Divisional Staff Team studied during one of our days together this Fall.

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