Grace That Goes Before
A couple weeks ago, through the act of baptism, we were reminded that it is God’s grace that makes it possible for us to be God’s people. We often refer to this grace as prevenient, something that is offered to us before we choose to respond to or participate in it. This is a beautiful image of God’s nature and the relationship he seeks to have with us. This week, our reading of Genesis 17 yields a reflection along the same vein. In Genesis 17, God invites Abraham to covenant with him once more. God promises him a child who will father the nations of the world. We find this already extraordinary promise to be even more so when it is revealed that Abraham and Sarah are elderly and have not been able to have a child. In this story we are also reminded that it is not Abraham who initially sought out God, but God who sought out Abraham. This kind of complex promise is one that only God would dare to make. This invitation to promise made by God requires that Abraham “walk before [God] faithfully and be blameless.” In a way, this communicates not only that this call to walk faithfully and be blameless is required of Abraham, but also that it is possible for him to do so. This is a significant statement for anyone who hears it. God offers this possibility to a man who in the same conversation laughs at God. This thought prompts a very fitting question: What does God mean when he commands Abraham to be blameless? Anyone acquainted with the human race is likely to wonder if this is even possible in the first place. Is it possible for a person to be blameless? To summarize several hundred years of scholarship, yes, it is. As a Wesleyan-Holiness people, this possibility of coming blamelessly before God is intrinsic to our identity. The idea of being blameless, holy, and entirely sanctified are foundational parts of our theological heritage, even if these words have at times become obscured in our rhetoric. But what does this mean for us? This understanding of God’s calling means that phrases such as “well no one is perfect” or “I’m only human” may be damaging to our understanding of sin and self-control. It might prompt us to consider the ways that we have fallen short in honoring God through word and action, even when the word sin may not seem right for that kind of failure. But even more than that, this understanding should be energizing and emboldening. As people called to be the very image of God in the world, God considers it possible to come holy and blameless before him.It means that the promise of living into God’s calling is not reserved for after death when we are reunited with Christ. Instead, it is possible to live that way now with hopes for even more in the future. It is scriptures such as Genesis 17 that make me excited that we are given an opportunity to live in the kingdom.