In the ESV translation of my Bible, in Romans 6:7, the line reads “For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
I am reading Romans right now out of hunger to remember the truth, and stumbling across that verse, I noticed something. In my Bible is listed a footnote for the phrase, “set free”. In Greek, another wording is also, “has been justified”.
Now, I love words just as much as anyone, and so seeing different renderings of the same text is exciting for me. Here I had been reading from the beginning of this letter and had no idea that being justified and being set free were the same idea. If you think of redemption or even prison, being freed doesn’t happen spontaneously, without any sort of recompense. To break chains, there has to be some sort of payment. That payment is grace.
Consider the word “justice”, then. It almost comes off as redemption, doesn’t it? You think about criminal justice and how people are bound to serve years behind bars as a sort of payment to society. Regardless of the politics and potential shortcomings of how the United States delivers “justice”, the general concept is sound. One is justified, by one means of another.
And yet, we are all captive prisoners to sin without having recieved grace. I’m fascinated by how Paul addresses the natural faith of Gentiles which is written on their hearts instead of in the reading of the law, and bears witness to grace (Romans 2:14-16). It is vague in scripture whether people who are disciples of God’s spirit will be counted as disciples of his son, but Paul seems to support that notion. To me, Gods holy grace can come to you in part before you are able to recognize its source in Christ, but his kindness is meant to draw you in (Romans 2:4) instead of keeping you still far from him. If there was no kindness and goodness offered to us while we still did mot believe, would anyone believe in the name of Jesus? It would be as pointless and dried bones as the Pharisees. Yet he calls us family first and draws us in through his son. How perfect is that?
I believe in the Spirit of Jesus. I believe in the gifts we are given to use widely to bring more grace, truth, justice, and faith into this world. The warm feeling of love that is a true testimony of his character. I believe in that. I think it can be easy to complicate Christian faith by playing up parts of the Christian shtick that the world is quicker to accept, like how we can take credit serving, inflate our own crowns, give away a lot of free aid, and act in a way that does not betray our purpose. I see a lot of people who think that faith is just a stepping stone to get what you want or continue in the same exact life as you had before you were called. I see much fewer people who are willing to accept Gods free gift, or only accept it in part.
Yet to be made free, some chains must be broken. You must be restored. Think “Extreme Makeover, Temple Edition.” Following Jesus isn’t necessarily easy, but it does give life. In order to be made free or by the same token, justified, we have to be willing to allow God to work.