I just returned from a National Day of Prayer service at the Volunteers of America Daniels Chapel. It was great to spend time as a community of believers in Jesus Christ interceding for the needs of the world, our nation, our community, and our families and friends.
One of the most moving things to me was the equality we all felt during the time of prayer. Regardless of the background of the individual praying at any given moment, I was impressed with the truth that God doesn’t see our social status, earthly successes or failures, Christian denominations, or other categories that so often divide us from one another. The good news of the gospel is that when we had wandered far from God’s will and his ways, He sought us out in the person of Jesus Christ and entered into our fallen world in order to restore us to relationship with God the Father. On the cross, Jesus pays the penalty for the wrongs against God that we have done toward the end that we can know the God who knows all.
It is this relationship with God that is often miscommunicated and/or misunderstood regarding the Bible’s message. God isn’t chiefly concerned with behavior modification. Jesus’ mission was to establish relationships, not merely change our morals.
I feel like I have always understood the fact that God is holy. In my mind, that included the fundamental character traits of perfection, purity and goodness. I also had no problem understanding that I was not holy. The disparity between God’s excellence and my sinfulness left me feeling completely unworthy, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My problem was in thinking that somehow I needed to gain moral standing in God’s eyes by becoming a “good” person. This struggle for moral improvement was confounding. The more it seemed like I gained in one area of life, the further behind I began to realize I was in multiple others.
But this isn’t the message of the gospel at all. In accepting the notion that God’s main concern was for me to clean up my act, I bought into a false understanding of the gospel message. It wasn’t until I began to put the relationship first and forget about my behaviors, that I began to know more peace in my spiritual life. It’s easier to “be” in a relationship with God when He and I are in agreement that my actions don’t begin to compare with his moral perfection. The good news is that I only stand before God because of Jesus’ actions, in spite of my own.
Realizing this puts us all on equal footing, we can gather to pray, as we did this afternoon, and ask God to help our community, nation and world as equals, because honestly, none of us has a moral leg up on anyone else. Jesus establishes peace in our relationship with the Father, and then in our relationships with one another. What a gloriously amazing thing!
Kevin Jones is a reverend at Grace Anglican Church.