Recently a couple different ministries have given rise to the question, “What are your core affirmations as a church? What things define you faith?” We could answer in a hundred different ways. Every door opened leads to a hallway with a dozen more doors! Even so, I sat down and took a stab at it. See what you think.
Here are the first three.
We do not save ourselves by our own works or beliefs. God’s grace saves us.
Nothing we do earns our way into right relationship with God. Nothing we believe earns our salvation. Nothing we achieve with our bodies, minds, hearts, or lives makes us perfect enough to stand before an infinitely just, infinitely good God. We all fall short of infinite perfection.
Yet we do stand before God, not because of our own achievements, but because God loves us. We do not define other people by shortcomings or any perceived imperfection. When we meet someone, we assume they are a beloved child of God, gloriously imperfect and gloriously blessed with God’s Spirit and voice.
God’s grace comes to us through Jesus Christ, specifically through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Jesus taught, fed, gathered, blessed, and performed miracles. All of those are great things. None of them were sufficient. Jesus’ purpose was not just as a spiritual leader in one place and time, but as a Savior for all places and times. Jesus died because we die, and in death he unites with us all. Jesus rose again so that we may rise, continuing to be united with God and each other beyond the limits of our own power and mortality.
Jesus’ teachings and miracles were not a way around death or our own imperfection, but a light illuminating that death and imperfection are not the ultimate powers in the universe. God is the ultimate power, and God chooses to love and redeem us through Christ.
We live as saints and sinners at the same time.
Life is not a series of choices, sending us down paths of goodness or evil, wholeness or oblivion. Our lives are inevitably a mixture of both.
We are broken pots, incapable of containing or fulfilling what we ought. No understanding or belief can un-break us, this side of the grave. God pours infinite love and grace into us. Through God, even the cracks in us become opportunities for more grace to pour out into the world.
The purpose of the law in the Bible is to point out our cracks, that we not celebrate them or justify them as good. If we forget we are not perfect, we become our own gods over and against our neighbors instead of vessels of grace and Spirit pouring out to our neighbors. But the law is not the end of the story, nor its ultimate purpose. Understanding we are broken, we then look beyond ourselves for hope. That hope is always fulfilled in God’s love.
Saying we are only saints denies our need for God. Saying we are only sinners denies God’s power and relationship to us. We are both. We do not ask, “Is this bad or is this good?” Much less do we ask, “Is this person bad or good?” We assume both are true and we ask questions like, “How? For whom? And how are we to proceed in this time and place for the good of people beyond just ourselves?”
Next Time: The remaining three affirmations!