Brian Underwood: SOS guides passengers to safe harbor
Navigating life’s waters can definitely be tricky.
Sometimes they are calm and provide smooth sailing. At other times, powerful waves crash so violently against us we need to seek refuge.
For dire moments on the water, boat captains have the ability to put out an SOS for help. Christians, on land or sea, and in times of trouble and plenty, are reminded of the SOS at their disposal 24/7/365.
One way of looking at the purpose of God’s word in our lives can be found in the acronym SOS. The Bible shows us our sin, and it shows us our savior, Jesus Christ. Our inability to perfectly follow God’s commandments points to our sin, but by God’s grace, through the death and resurrection of his son, our savior, Jesus Christ, Christians experience God’s glory in everlasting life.
The notion of grace is difficult for many to fully grasp when all other faiths are based on what’s known as works-righteousness, or somehow earning your way to eternity.
The uncertainty some have with grace can be as tricky as maneuvering through life’s waters. Sometimes it’s easy to understand and grant grace and, at other times, forgiveness seems nearly impossible to grant.
This was certainly true in the life and times of Jesus in his interactions with the Pharisees and scribes. For as learned as they were in God’s law and being able to point to sin, Jesus’ teaching of the Gospel message was tricky for them. So confounding was it that they often used what knowledge they had to trick Jesus, even twisting scripture for their own argument.
We’ve all heard a version of “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” The etymology of this most likely comes from John 8:1-9 where the Pharisees and scribes brought Jesus a woman accused of adultery. They cited God’s law for the consequence the woman should receive for such a sin, and in the process they sought to ensnarl Jesus.
But being the master comes with its perks, such as embodying the truth of the new covenant of the Gospel that reconciles and redeems this sins of Christ’s followers by his death and resurrection.
The Pharisees and scribes no doubt felt they held the religious high ground, challenging Jesus “…but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5)
“… So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ … And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one…” (John 8:7,9).
It seems our sinful nature can’t help but to judge or point out sin. We do it almost reflexively. However, God’s word also gives us hope in our savior. And we can hope to begin bottling the instinct for judgment when we remember an important biblical truth alongside the greatest commandment.
First, Jesus’ teaching in the example of the adulteress reminds that we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all sin. Even the self-righteous Pharisees in Jesus’ presence that day had to skulk away in the shame of their own sin. So, focusing on owning our own sins and seeking forgiveness for them is an important first step toward becoming less judgmental and more grace-filled.
Next, when asked at another time by a Pharisee seeking to trip Jesus on the question of the greatest commandment, Christ again responded with the message of the Gospel. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Prudent boating safety takes into account the need to prepare and protect a vessel and its passengers for all kinds of weather. This is the same as recognizing sin in our lives and guarding against it. And for when skies turn gray and the sailing becomes rough (and at times it surely will), it’s comforting to have a call sign at the ready. This is the blessing of a loving savior.
In John 16:33, Jesus says in the first half of the verse that in this world we will have trouble. And be that challenges at the hand of sin or be that obstacles given to us to trust God more, we should always cling to the best news of all in the second half of that verse. “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
That’s a lifeline you can count on.
Brian Underwood is director of school development at Sierra Lutheran High School in Carson City.