Romans 8:1-11 (RSV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but accordingly to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
One of the more important features of the cultural environment we now inhabit is an emphasis on people getting what they deserve. That idea is often betrayed in practice, to be sure, and we can all think of ways in which our current way of life seems to be skewed against people getting what we believe, at least, they deserve. But when we encounter situations where we think that is the case, most of us think it is wrong. We react negatively to such situations because we judge them to be unjust, and even if there is much disagreement in our society about what exactly that means in practice, it is a rare person who does not think that as a society we should be aiming to minimize the likelihood of people not getting what they deserve.
Some people think that’s the way God acts in dealing with us. Indeed, some Christians even appear to believe that God decides our ultimate destiny on the basis of what we deserve. But that view is not easily reconciled with the Bible. Indeed, it is arguably just the opposite of what the Bible tells us about God’s nature and purposes, and nothing illustrates this better than the recurring appeals to the mercy of the Lord in one part of the Bible after another. For, as we all know, to deal mercifully with someone is to grant that person something he or she does not deserve. In this respect, therefore, the logic of our faith comes close to being just the opposite of the way most of us ordinarily think; and we are reminded vividly in this Lenten season of just how much that matters.
Lord, we marvel at the thought that you may deal mercifully with us, and we rely on the hope that gives us. We know that we have done nothing to deserve the grace you have promised us. But we rely on that promise, and we are truly grateful for it. In the name of your Son. Amen.