Have you ever stopped to think about what you’d say would be the best human emotion to experience? Think about it for a second. Would it be love? Would it be joy? Would it be a relaxed state of mind (aka “peace”)? Most people would list those three first. That is…UNTIL they’ve been given a list that includes the emotion known as RELIEF. And then, the vast majority of respondents indicate “relief” as their emotion of choice.
Relief is one of those things that is sort of hard to quantify isn’t it? Mostly because each of us experience it in very different ways. And THAT is because what we each need relief FROM is so vastly different.
Regardless of the situation or circumstance that leads us to the experience of relief, one thing is universal about it: the dissolving of tension and agitation. And – God bless his soul – that is what our beloved Paul explains for us this week in Romans 3:21-5:21!
Beautiful stuff, isn’t it? RELIEF at its best, I’d say. We need look no further than the first verse of Chapter 5 for a perfect explanation:
To me, that’s the equivalent of being someone who is very sick hearing: “You are 100% cured!”
It’s like a wrongly accused prisoner on death row hearing, “You are exonerated!”
It’s ALSO the relief that comes with the soul-level understanding that our circumstances and choices do not need to be the end of us.
There is so much richness in this section of Romans. The relief comes flooding in now because we have been assured of the ultimate outcome! Peace in Christ.
We LOVE knowing the outcome of things, don’t we? It’s like watching a movie for the second time – we’re not so stressed and anxious about the ending so we can sort of enjoy the nuances of the plot a little more. Or if, like me, you like reading books more than once, the second reading almost feels richer somehow because you’re not racing through just to find out what happens. (Am I seriously the only one who does that?!)
Living this life knowing the outcome – in terms of our right standing with God through Jesus – allows us to take a deep breath when the stress of “living” comes upon us, because, regardless of what it looks like to us in the moment, we can be sure that the ending is perfect and beautiful.
I’m always reminded here of another story from scripture, one of which you may likely be familiar with. It’s the parable of the prodigal son found in the book of Luke. (If you are following along with us in our Bible study series, you will read it this week in your homework, but I want to quickly talk about it today because it is laced with BEAUTIFUL lessons of grace!)
Here it is in a nutshell:
Jesus is again being criticized by the Pharisees for hanging out and sharing meals with people they consider to be low-lifes. So, like he is prone to do, Jesus tells them a story:
This man has 2 sons, younger one says “give me my share” and went off to see the world. But he spent his cash foolishly (even wildly…).
Out of money with no food and no good prospects in the foreseeable future, scripture tells us he “comes to his senses” and makes a plan to return home, repentant, to his father.
Expecting nothing in return, and fully prepared to be completely sorry for what he did, he heads home. Scripture tells us that his father sees him coming down the road, and he runs to his son and throws his arms around him. (Some translations even say he smothers him with kisses – I love that). The younger son apologizes profusely and his father – instead of scolding him, or making him apologize harder, or even make him promise to repay him – does this CRAZY thing where he throws a huge, extravagant party in the younger son’s honor because “my son was once lost, but now he has been found.”
Oh my. There is something so profoundly forgivable in honest-to-goodness repentance. (And darn it, our goofy doggies know it…)
But more importantly…so does our God.
Did you know that the word “prodigal” has nothing to do with being “wayward”l? It also has nothing to do with the word “prodigy” where someone has incredible skill in one area or another.
Instead, it has two definitions (according to Merriam-Webster):
- Having spent everything
- Being recklessly extravagant
The son spent it all. The father forgave and was recklessly extravagant in his love and forgiveness.
Jesus, THE Son who spent everything for us. And then God – OUR Father in heaven, who (to those who do not understand the vastness of His love for us) appears to be recklessly extravagant in extending his grace and mercy to us, regardless of our actions.
Paul, in Chapter 5, assures us that when we miss the mark (and even when we repeatedly miss the mark), when we roam off for what we assume will be greener pastures because our human selves aren’t exactly capable of getting it right all the time, we have a God that spends it all to bring us back.
Relief. Peace. GRACE. That’s MY God. And I’m humbled to be His. Aren’t you?
Following along with The Big Picture with us?! If so, click here for our homework for WEEK 5 (can you believe we are half way there?!) and for our awesome song of the week!
Peace, love, and JOY to you!
Up Next Week: MORE Rescue for the Sinner!