Clergy Corner: By grace alone

Reciprocity is not needed to receive God’s love

File Photo
Pastor Ronald Ritter, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

■ Ronald Ritter / Contributed

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century has been identified by some as a revolution as well as its more commonly recognized identification as reformation. In some regards, it may very well be seen as carrying elements of both reformation and revolution. In terms of reformation, much has appeared in virtually all media announcing and in some religious communities celebrating the forthcoming observance of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Oct. 31.
German Augustinian Monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany on the evening before All Saints Day, Oct. 31, 1517. Oct. 31 was observed as All Hallowed Eve. (Note: that’s where our word “Halloween” comes from. “All Hallowed Eve” was observed in Luther’s time and evolved to what we call it today, Halloween.)
Four fundamental principles have guided the Reformation ever since Luther’s 1517 effort to generate discussion within the Medieval Church. They are “Scripture Alone,” “Grace Alone,” “Faith Alone,” and “Jesus Alone.”
Of the four fundamental principles above, only one carries enough weight to nudge it into the category of a revolution. It is the second one, “Grace Alone.” Here’s how!
The biblical teaching of Grace Alone contradicts virtually everything by which we conduct our lives on a daily basis. The principle of reciprocity that governs and directs the bulk of our whole daily life cycle, whether at home, school, work and, yes, even at church, is directly opposite the principle of Grace Alone. To say it in a more crass manner, we actually live our lives in what has come to be known as a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” world. We are so immersed (suffocated may be a better word) in this “back scratching” and “reciprocal” world that even believers in Jesus struggle to grasp and live by the principle of Grace Alone as opposed to reciprocity.
To the adult mind wholly shaped and formed by a culture that faithfully subscribes to the idea and lives by the competing principle that “one good turn deserves another,” the idea of receiving from the Almighty Creator of the Universe every possible good thing without having to do anything to merit or earn it is simply preposterous. Forgiveness of sins for free? Eternal life at no cost? Ridiculous, outrageous, absurd, laughable, silly, and outlandish! This is how the world thinks and acts and this is why “Grace Alone” is really revolutionary!
But Almighty God writes the rules and delivers those rules in his word, the Bible. In his omnipotence, God chooses to love us with an inexpressible and unfathomable love that defies all human reason and mocks all human vanity and useless attempts at back-scratching in order to procure his favor. His action on our behalf is called Grace Alone. That’s the message that Jesus Christ brought to the earth 2,000 years ago by his words and actions. We call it Gospel. I say that’s the best deal we have going for us.
Interested? Please join us in celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Details are in the ad on page A4.

Pastor Ronald Ritter ministers at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church located at 701 N. Sanderson Ave., Hemet.

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