March 18: No matter how much I do
Scroll down for complete Scripture.
I spent spring break this year with a group of my fellow students in LaGrange, Ga., learning about issues surrounding illegal immigration. We spent the week with people whose lives were given over to fighting for justice in God’s name. We witnessed extreme poverty and extreme wealth existing side by side, visited prisoners unjustly detained, and helped in the feeding of the hungry and the distribution of clothes to the needy. It was a thoroughly Mennonite service trip.
No one, I think, would argue with me if I said that Mennonites are strongly service-oriented Christians. We emphasize awareness of social maladies and subsequent whole-hearted attempts to cure them. Being the Mennonite college student that I am, I’m idealistic, full of energy, and bent on changing the world in God’s name.
Here, though, is where caution introduces itself. In my rush to better the world by improving my capacity to serve, I must always keep my eyes on God. I’ve come dangerously close to turning acts of service into my method for redeeming the value of life. Anton Florez, one of the folks we met in Georgia, suggested we ask: “When do I labor in vain without first seeking to be still and know that I am not God?” Further: how much do we try to save ourselves by living well?
Paul wrote that whatever was to his profit he considered a loss for the sake of Christ; he wrote, too, that he did not want a righteousness of his own that came from the law. As I grow into my Mennonite shoes, I want to avoid at all costs letting acts of service become my salvation. I want to keep “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith,” no matter how much I do – or don’t do.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)
…even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.