On every computer there is a command or icon for adjusting the lines on the page to fit evenly within the margins on both sides of the screen. This is called justification. It means that all the words on the page are realigned so that they are in right relationship with each other within the margins on the page.
The Apostle Paul didn’t know about computers, but the metaphor of page justification is not far from what he was talking about when he said that we are “justified by faith”.
When we come to realize that we have sinned, and confess our sin to God, we are justified. Through the actions of Jesus Christ, our life, put out of sync with God, is instantly put back in alignment. It is a breathtaking miracle that God acts so decisively and completely in our behalf.
While God’s act of justification in our life is immediate, our walk in this new relationship with God is painstakingly slow and imperfect! As Paul says, “the very thing I want to do (and know that I should do) I cannot do, and the very thing that I don’t want to do (and know that I should not do) is what I do! [Romans 7:15-20] I can just see Paul holding his head in his hands, pathetically bemoaning his human limitations.
But I don’t think Paul is trying to make us hang our head in shame. Rather, I believe Paul is reminding us that God is not surprised by our inability to live without sin…which is why, while we were yet sinners, God sent Jesus into our lives to forgive us and release us to live in grace rather than in sin. There is no reason for us to live “out of alignment” with God when grace is our gift, abundant and free.
Wendy K. Bellis, M.Div., who is the pastor at Morrisville United Methodist Church in Morrisville, PA, shared this based on James Harnish’s A Disciple’s Heart while working through a sermon series based on the book.