There was at one time in my life an authority figure whose approval and acceptance I desperately wanted to obtain but whose standards were no less than perfection. As a student I worked really hard on one particular math test and got a 97%, an A. I was so happy that day thinking that maybe now this person would be proud of me and see value in me. I was so excited to show him my test with that big fat A on the front. His voice still rings crystal clear in my ears, as clear as it was thirty years ago: “97% is okay, I guess, but that means that you didn’t learn 3% of the material presented in class. If you try harder, maybe next time you can get 100%. That would be something!” Once again, I was crushed. I was found unacceptable by the one whose approval mattered most.
His attitude about my test is a good picture for these verses. While we may think 97% is good, for one who minimun standard is perfection, it falls short of the mark. We as humans like to think that we can be good enough for God, if we try really hard. But God’s law isn’t a sliding scale – we won’t be judged on a curve. God’s law is pass or fail and not one of us can pass. One mistake, one sin, one selfish moment, one inch astray, and we have broken God’s law. If we keep 97% of God’s law, that means we break the other 3%. We’ve failed because 97% isn’t 100%. Now that may seem harsh, but God is a holy God and even the tiniest speck of sin cannot dwell in his presence. What are we to do?God knows we are sinful, that not one of us can be perfect and therefore deserving of being in his presence so he took the test himself, so to speak, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. He came into this world to live as a man a perfect sinless life, the one we couldn’t live. Then on the cross and in his resurrection, he traded his sinless life for our sinful one, taking the rejection, the punishment that we earned in our sinfulness, upon himself - he offers to trade test papers with us. He wants to give us his 100%, his pass in exchange for our fail, our sinfulness, to present to our Heavenly Father for which we will receive the approval and acceptance we so desperately desire, for a perfect paper, for a holiness we didn’t earn but receive as a gift when we ask Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? God did all the work and we get all the benefits. That’s how much God loves us. That’s grace. It’s not fair. Thank the Lord because if God operated on a fair system, not one of us would be able to stand in his presence ever. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God.