Grace to you!
Does the life of faith have an ethical implication for the believer? We shall find out what Saint Paul has to say in response, hoping it will enrich our spiritual reflection today.
The bulk of Saint Paul’s teaching in Romans was centered on faith, grace and justification in Christ. For the past ten days we have been plying through various spiritual fruits of the teaching from the lens of a simple personal reflection.
In Romans 6: 12-18, St. Paul writes about the moral and ethical implications of justification in Christ in the life of the believer. He asks, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” His answer was emphatic, “Of course not!”
St. Paul’s answer reminds me of the necessity of living the justified life. It implies living virtuously, practicing what is good and ethical. The virtuous is by all reasonable means ethical and good. Not living under the burden of the law, as he calls it, means in Christ we have been given the grace to live “above” the crushing and frustrating limitations of the letters of the law. The law in itself, as St. Paul makes us understand, doesn’t have the grace-power enabling us to practice what it says, what we learn from it. The grace to do so comes from God.
Addressing the moral challenges the early Church of Rome was dealing with, St. Paul emphasizes: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:12-14). Don’t you suppose this also applies to us today?
Justification in Christ isn't like frosting over the cake, which does not necessarily improve the taste of the cake as such. Healthy eaters simply remove the frosting and consume the cake. The frosting performs more of a decorative function while the inside of the cake, the flour and baked element, remains intact.
Justification in Christ isn’t like frosting. If I say I’m a Christian and justified, but do not live the life of that justification, a life whose constant attitude is to strive by the grace I have received to holiness of life, my confession could be compared to frosting. Saint Paul reminds us to go deeper and allow the new life brought by faith and grace to lead us to the practice of virtue, in opposition to the life of sin.
The justified is not obedient to sin or lawlessness. The person is obedient to God and holiness. May it not be that I leave my identity as the justified in the Lord behind and engage in those kinds of life and choices that leave God out of the equation. Being justified entails much responsibility, as the Lord says, if anyone is given much, much is expected of the person (Lk 12:48).
May we find joy in the life of holiness and the practice of virtue. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 29 A: Rom 6:12-18; Lk 12:39-48]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.