“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Performance is society’s greatest lie. Everyone tells us we must meet a certain standard. We accept this mandate because it allows society to function normally. A business can’t succeed if it’s employees don’t do their job, and it’s awfully hard to sustain a relationship with someone who sleeps with another person every night. To accomplish anything in this world, we have to at least be good enough, or perhaps better than somebody else. But in the spiritual world, no one is good enough and no one is better than anyone else.
The Bible makes it clear that human beings are not good in and of themselves. Period. We all screw up. Even if we do something that seems good, we do it to improve our image or to make us feel better about ourselves. As Romans 3:12 says, “there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Because we cannot do anything good, we can only know God because of his grace. What’s grace? Something we don’t deserve. God provided a means of escaping our own evil nature through the life, death, and resurrection of his son. Why? I don’t know. That’s just what he wanted to do.
Romans chapter 3 also says “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Read that again. There is no difference. We are all in the same boat, and if not for Jesus that boat would be on its way to hell. Becoming a Christian does not give you permission to look down on people because they are pedophiles, prostitutes, or party animals (although many Christians seem to think so). On the contrary, becoming a Christian requires you to identify with those people. A sermon I heard recently put it very well: The ground is level at the foot of the cross.