Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. ~ Romans 9:33
We are vessels of mercy.
Last week my husband and I had the privilege of celebrating 11 years of marriage. And my main man planned an elaborate day of traveling into the city and doing a “poor mans Europe trip”. Early in our marriage we backpacked around Europe and this was his way of reminding us of that adventure. So we went to monuments in the city and quietly walked through church’s and pontificated over art at the museum. It was a great idea and we had lots of fun.
And this morning the Lord brought me to Romans 9. Which is hard not to read without thinking about the people in those beautiful stone church’s here and all around the world who seek righteousness daily. The ones who like the Jewish folk of old, love righteousness, and desire it. But not by faith.
That Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. ~ Romans 9:31-32a
They are gentiles with the heart of the Jews. And so they labor in vain.
How is that fair? How is it that myself being a gentile can receive mercy after never seeking righteousness (Romans 9:30)?
I sat in that church, which was made with the best kind of materials. I’m sure people long ago poured over the place, making it the most God-honoring building they could muster. And now priests and lay-people come in and out, rituals on their lips and righteousness on the mind. They have worked and continue to work hard. That much is clear.
…as though it were by works.
But before you think I pit them against my gentile self and call myself the winner. Please know I do not.
These texts in Romans are not about anyone winning. Gentiles do not win.
I do not win.
Because of Christ’s work and His victory, we all sit at the same table. Because of mercy and mercy alone.
I do not doubt that their are souls who wander into that church and do so in faith. And they would be my brothers and sisters. Jew and gentile. It is such good news. Gentiles who never sought righteousness can link arms in brotherhood with Jews of great righteousness ripped of faith.
We have all fallen short. Then Jesus stumbled us.
He is the stone that trips the unrighteous and faithless alike. Leveling us out completely. Some will be offended by this Christ, by His saving work and they will continue to labor needlessly.
His plan was to make us face-plant into grace. Our belief in Him through faith alone, means the breaking and destroying of our shame. Nothing we did or have done made us worthy. None of us deserved it. But there it is. And here we are.
I sat in the pew with a man rocking rhythmically and chanting laments that echoed through the stone. And I prayed for faith. For my own, for him and for the city. I pray now that faith would win the day.
If we believe through faith in this Jesus. The one who takes away our shame and sets us free. We can be vessels of great mercy.
And that is such good news.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 10:4