Justifying ourselves

Justifying ourselves February 23, 2015

I am reading a book that is blowing me away:  Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer, the contemporary German theologian who is sort of the Lutheran answer to radical orthodoxy.  Instead of reading it all, then writing a formal review, I am so excited by this book that I thought I would write posts about what I am finding so interesting as I am reading through it.

Bayer begins by showing that the concept of “justification” is not an arcane theological concept.  Rather, it’s something we are preoccupied with all the time.  We are always engaged in trying to justify ourselves.  We are always maintaining that we are right, particularly when other people say that we are wrong.  At work, in our casual conversations, in our relationships with others, we are always defending ourselves, making excuses, scoring points, and seeking approval.  I mean, you see it in the comments on this and other blogs.

Bayer seems the need to justify ourselves in the social dimension, as well, from our political arguments to nations going to war.  We insist that we are right.  And so is the other person or group who insists that we are wrong.

Underlying the need to be justified, Bayer says, is our yearning for approval, for affirmation, for thinking that our existence matters in some positive way, for our need to think that our life is worthwhile.

That we all are engaged in justifying ourselves is an understandable, normal facet of being human.  Of course, we are not always right and are often wrong–though we continue to justify ourselves–creating all kinds of inner turmoil.  The problem, though, is that we are trying to justify ourselves.

I am seeing where Bayer is going with this:  What if, instead of having to justify ourselves, we are justified by Christ?  What if Christ gives us approval, affirmation, assurance that our existence matters, that our life is worthwhile?

The grace of God–in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–forgives our wrongdoing and makes us “right.”  Thus,  on the deepest level, we do not have to justify ourselves because Christ has justified us.  Believing in His Word of justification is faith.  And living in that realization is what it means to live by faith.


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