Read Romans 3
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)
Many people in America, and even around the world, have been paying close attention to the U.S. presidential campaigns. All one has to do is turn on the T.V. and you will see news coverage, campaign ads, and even political satire of the two campaigns. The other night, I was watching the second debate between President Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney. Though the forum was set up as a town hall meeting, the two candidates were very aggressive toward each other. There were multiple moments where both candidates were in each other’s faces, pointing their fingers at each other, and accusing the other as not telling the truth.
In all of the debates so far, and this would be true for all election-year debates, the candidates try to point out each other’s records, and where they failed to live up to the American people’s expectations. Mitt Romney is trying to show how President Obama failed to live up to the promises he made in his 2008 campaign. Conversely, President Obama is trying to show that Mitt Romney’s record points to an overly rich guy who has a long-founded interest in helping the wealthy get wealthier at the cost of the middle-class and the poor. He is trying to show that Mitt Romney will not live up to the expectations of the American people.
Now, the point of this devotional is not to get political in any way; however, this current presidential campaign, and really all such campaigns, is saying something about us as an American culture. It is saying that merit means a lot to us as Americans. If you are successful and worth your weight in salt, we will vote for you. If you are perceived as a failure, we will not. And this is not true for just politics. It is true in our jobs, in our sports, and in just about every other aspect of our lives. We very much participate in what is called a meritocracy, and for politics, business, sports and other performance driven things, it is understandable why merit is valued.
What is sad, however, is that meritocracy has also become a part of the Christian church! Even in the church we look toward success and merit. We hold people “accountable” (even though Paul went through lengths to state that love takes no account), we keep record of people’s success and failures, and we judge people based off of their performance in ministry and other aspects of the church. Now that is not to say that we should not correct people when they are wrong, or walk along side of people with the hope of guiding them toward successful ministry; however, there is a fine line between that and becoming an institution of merit.
What should be clear to us, as evidenced in Scripture, is that in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no meritocracy. If God were to demand of us to show our merit, according to God’s standard, we would all fail that test. None of us are going to be seeking to “show God our merit” on that final day; rather, we are going to be asking God to show us his grace and mercy. If that is the case, then shouldn’t we be ditching a system of meritocracy for one of mercy and grace? Shouldn’t we be accepting all people, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of God’s love them? God’s challenging us to tear down the walls of merit that the world has instilled in us from birth, and allow God to lay down the foundation of mercy, grace, and unconditional love for all people. This is God’s message for us today.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
God is not merit; God is unconditional love.
Lord, help me to tear down the walls of merit in my life and replace them with your foundation of love and grace. Amen.