One of the most interesting discussions in Christianity is how humans are justified in the eyes of God. Are we justified by faith alone, or are we justified by faith and works? In support of the argument that humans are justified by faith alone, people often point to Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law”. And in support of the argument that man is justified by faith and works, we often hear about James, 2:14-26, “faith by itself, if not accompanied by deeds, is dead”.
So, which is it? The best I can do is to try to reference my relationship with my children. It’s a poor analogy, but it’s my tool for grappling with the issue. I say to myself that I love my children because they are mine, and because my wife and I created them. (Mostly my wife. Let’s be real.) There is literally nothing my children could do which would make my love them any less or any more. I love them simply because they are mine. So, that sounds closer to the idea of being justified by faith alone. It’s not about what you do for God; rather, it’s just about the relationship you have.
But, then I think of how I want my children to respond to my love. I want them to respond to my love by loving others, by making loving, non-sinful choices. And when they do, I am pleased. I am pleased not just because it shows that what my wife and I are doing is having the intended effect, but because I believe, I know, that loving, non-sinful choices will bring them closer to God. I want them to understand this.
And I think that God wants us to understand this. I think that God loves us no matter what, but that what he wants for us is that we should do loving, non-sinful things, good works, so we can be closer to him. We have truly been given free will, and our choices truly have the consequence of bringing us closer to, or farther from, God. How this all works, the details, I have very little clue. But in overall design, I think this is how it works.
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