S (Scripture): Romans 3:22b For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! 30 Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.
O (Observation): Paul is still setting the stage to discuss how both Jews and Gentiles are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. The Jew is given the Law and is made faithful by way of the covenant God made with the Jewish people. The Jewish people sort of inherited God’s grace and this is made manifest by following their side of the covenant. Yet the Jewish people do not perfectly keep their end of the bargain. So, if they are imperfectly righteous, how do they become righteous? By faith. Not by their works.
As for the Gentiles…they simply believe (on faith) that Jesus Christ is the Savior, not the human rulers on the earth. They have no former covenant to inherit righteousness, as do the Jews. Instead, God’s grace is imparted through faith alone.
The unifying factor here is the key Paul is lifting up: Grace comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ
A (Application): Division. Truth. Unity.
Truth is that the Church has a way to salvation and to living out the Kingdom of God on earth: faith in Jesus Christ, who gives us a right standing before God, and the giving of the Spirit to each of us, to bless us with a calling and a will to live out that calling through the gift of the Holy Spirit. God the Creator oversees all of this.
I can maintain this truth, even though my Muslim neighbors believe in another truth, as do my Jewish and Buddhist neighbors. All of these truths stand on their own, and yet cannot be fully integrated into one another’s stories. (We can look for overarching themes, but the details don’t match up : )
But do I need to make my truth their truth (or vice versa), when it comes to faith and religion? Certainly not. Instead, I focus on how we can make a difference in our community, together: building bridges between faiths and cultures, fighting against homelesness, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger (refugee).
We can respect one another and unify around ideals that we share: love, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation. This, we can do. And we will do, for this is our ultimate calling: walking with our neighbor, and blessing others just as God has blessed us.
Where is your calling taking you? With what part of this unity in diversity causes you trouble?
P (Prayer): Lord, we are separated. Bring us together. Amen.