5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
How many of you have a smart phone? Have you ever typed a text message to someone, only to have one of your words change into something completely different than what you meant? Just the other day, my sister texted me something funny and meant to type “haha,” but her phone changed it to “gaga.” And I know she’s not that big of a Lady Gaga fan! Auto-correct. It can be our best friend or our worst enemy when it comes to our smart phones. There are countless websites out there completely devoted to funny auto-corrects in texts messages, that I’m sure resulted in some very embarrassed people. If you ever need a good laugh, just google funny auto-corrects. But be warned, it was very difficult to find any that were actually family friendly and clean! But I did manage to find some examples to show you:
Sometimes, no matter how much we try to type the exact word that we want, our devices want to auto-correct to something else. It can be the same way with our faith- no matter how much we try to embrace it, we find ourselves back into our old habits, our previous ways, our own set of rules. We auto-correct back to what we are most comfortable with. The challenge for us today is to allow ourselves not to be “auto-corrected”, but to be “Christ-corrected.” In our text, Paul is writing to a confused Roman church made up of both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) who are trying to live and worship together. Paul is trying to help them get their vocabulary on the same page, since both groups tend to auto-correct their language and understanding back to what they knew before they became followers of Jesus (Homiletics). He wants to help them start to speak a common language, which means that they will have to make some changes to the way they speak, think, and worship together. Paul maps out a common language and wants to shape a community made up of both Jews and Gentiles, now possible because of what God has done through Jesus. The language barriers have been broken down- they no longer are separated by the law- what they should or should not do- they are brought together by a common faith- and that is faith in Christ. They must now speak the language not of the law, but of faith.
The problem is that many of us do not know the difference between the two. Too often when we want to type “faith,” we auto-correct to “law” and the other way around. The law is a set of rules- (those originally mapped out for the Jewish people in the Torah), meaning that merit comes from following those laws and obeying them. Paul never denies that God requires obedience from us, but his point is that strict adherence to the law is not the primary way we become people of God (Homiletics). We become people of God by putting our complete trust in God and following in the life and teachings of Jesus, not by trying to be so perfect that we feel that we have fallen short of following the rules, and therefore are not worthy. Faith doesn’t wear itself out by following a strict pattern of dos and don’ts. Faith recognizes that God has come to us in Christ, who walked among us, who gave his life for us, and rose from the dead so that we might have life. Our faith isn’t proclaimed by throwing our Bible at someone and reminding them what rules they are not following. Our faith isn’t practiced when we spend our lives checking off items on a “to do” list or when we are told we must believe a certain way. Faith happens when we allow ourselves the space in our hearts for Christ to enter in and do his work within us. Faith happens when we are transformed from the inside out. Faith happens when we allow ourselves to be Christ-corrected, not auto-corrected.
Auto-correction of the worst sort happens when we focus too much on the rules as the primary way of making ourselves acceptable to God. After all, “auto” means self. We will wear ourselves out if we are only dependent on ourselves to be righteous. If we don’t allow faith to be part of the equation, then “our lives are going to look way sillier than a messed up text message” (Homiletics). When we try to do it all on our own, we lose sight of seeing the bigger picture of what it means to have faith that grows, changes, and transforms us.
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Saved.” It is about a group of teenagers at an evangelical Christian high school and the struggles they go through with their faith, friendships, and life in general. One of the girls, Mary, becomes pregnant and is beginning to question everything she has been taught throughout her life. Primarily, she is struggling to understand how her Christian faith could be based on a set of rules she must follow rather than simply believing in God and being accepted just as she is. In this scene we are about to watch, her classmates confront her and try to “correct” her ways. Let’s see what happens:
“The Bible is not a weapon,” she says. How true is that?! When we try to use the Bible as a weapon or tell people that they must adhere to this or that to be acceptable to God, we put the very essence of the Christian faith in danger. Instead of trying to auto-correct ourselves or auto-correct others, we need to let ourselves be Christ-corrected in the way we live out our faith. Faith isn’t a set of rules- it’s a way of life. To be Christ-correct means that we confess Jesus as Lord, we follow his life and teachings, and we live our lives as Christ would have us to live.
When I was first coming into the Christian faith, many people were happy to talk with me and answer my questions, and some tried to tell me that I had to follow a certain pattern or formula in order to be a Christian. I remember being approached by a Christian group in college who literally handed me a pamphlet with step by step rules on what I must do and what I must believe in order to be a part of that group and to believe in God. “Is that what Christianity is really about?” I asked. If so, I want no part in it. But the good news is that there were people who showed me the persisting, unrelenting grace of God. And there were people that shared the stories of a God revealed in Jesus who healed the blind and the lame, who loved and touched people that no one else would touch, who showed the world a better way through the way in which he accepted, loved, and healed without question. None of the persons loved, healed, or saved by Jesus had their checklist out before they came to him or before he reached out his healing hands. He simply loved. That was enough for me to let go of the supposed “rules” of how to be a Christian and to allow myself not to be auto-corrected, but to be Christ-corrected.
The next challenge is how we are to live this out. We are asked these vital questions in today’s text: “how are they to call on one in whom they have no believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” As Christ-corrected Christians, we are the ones who are challenged to answer these questions with, “Here I am, send me!” We are the ones sent out to proclaim Christ, to live our lives in Christ-like ways, to love, to serve, to teach, to respect, to accept…just as Christ does. We need to be the ones out there showing the world what Christianity is really like, especially in a world that keeps getting the wrong message about Christianity. Gandhi’s famous quote about Christians is unfortunately true too often: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
So let us be the ones to Christ-correct “hate” to “love” or “judgmental” to “accepting” or “exclusion” to “inclusion.” Let us be the ones to show our schools, our communities, our friends, our neighbors what it is to be Christ-corrected Christians. When we do that, we are reminded of “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” And today, as we celebrate and thank our teachers and send our children back to school, we all need to hear the message that we take our faith with us out into our world, our classrooms, our daily words and actions. We are the ones who are sent out in the name of Christ, we are the ones with the beautiful feet who bring the good news. We are the ones who are to not be focused so much on rules or the law, but on a living faith that compels us to show the love of God.
When I was in school, one of the first things I remember doing at the beginning of every year was going over the classroom rules. How many of you have rules on the wall of your classroom? (What are some?) I personally liked this set of rules:
It seems to apply to all of us, whether we are in school or not. Or when all else fails, there is always the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So if we must have rules, I think that these would all fall easily under what it means to be “Christ-corrected”- respect, kind words, pay attention, work hard, make mistakes, give praise, try our best, and learn, and treat people the way that you would want to be treated. Maybe it is true that everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten!
So as we begin a new school year, as we continue to live out our lives as people of faith, remember that yes, you do have beautiful feet. Feet that are meant to bring good news to our corner of the world and beyond. Remember that next time you get frustrated by your smart phone trying to auto-correct something that you didn’t want it to, that God is working to do a new thing in you that we might not be auto-corrected, but Christ- corrected people in a world that often times feels auto-corrected over and over again to the point that we no longer speak the same language. Let us be challenged to speak the same language- the language of faith. Let us be challenged to be Christ-corrected people.
A daughter wearing a new outfit texted a picture of herself to her mom. The mom texted back “you look affordable!” when she meant to type, “Adorable.” It doesn’t matter if you’re affordable or adorable- when you are in Christ, you will always be made right! And what good news that is! Amen.