I started out reading this passage in my NRSV and then moved to the KJV and finally the CEV. I found it spoke to me the most in the CEV and, of my five readings three of them were in the CEV.
The first thing that really struck me was in 3:22-24:
“God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.”
This is a VERY powerful three verse block of scripture, and it’s not so easy to actually write about and meditate over.
God treats us all the same, this is what we are told. It doesn’t matter who we are. It doesn’t matter what we are. It doesn’t matter what we have done. We are all the same in God’s eyes.
A lot of people, myself included, struggle with treating everyone the same way as God treats us.
Think about it.
Do we treat everyone equally? Do we treat everyone in the same manner as we would, ourselves, like to be treated?
The odds are really good that we do not treat everyone we come across in the same manner as God treats us. His ability to love us perfectly and equally no matter what is something that is extremely comforting.
Even when we screw up, He loves us. Even when we turn away from Him, He loves us. Even when we violate the laws of man and of God, He loves us.
Paul, again, hits the nail on the head in 3:23 when he says:
“All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”.
Not you have sinned but I have not. Not I have sinned but you have not. But, rather, we ALL have sinned. No one is perfect. But even though none of us is now, nor can we ever hope to be, perfect we can rest in the assurance that God will freely accept us no matter what as long as we accept Him.
I think we often struggle with being accepting of everyone.
It is very natural to want to accept those whom are like us while denying our presence to those who are different from us. We see this in churches all the time, unfortunately. How many churches can truly say they are a multi-ethnic body of believers in the true sense of being multi-ethnic? Yet, despite the fact that we can never hope to be as open and inviting as God is He still loves us and is perfectly open and inviting to us even when we are not always open and inviting to Him.
The second, and last, thing in this passage that stuck out to me was 3:28 and 3:30.
“We see that people are acceptable to God because they have faith, and not because they obey the Law.”
“There is only one God, and He accepts Gentiles as well as Jews, simply because of their faith.”
God will always love and care for us. We can curse and blaspheme His name and He will love us. We can turn from Him and run into the arms of our personal idols or even Satan, still He will love us.
What does God ask from us in return for His love and faith? Are we asked to live according to Mosaic Law? Are we asked to hide away from the rest of the world?
All we are asked to do is have faith. To have faith in Him. That is all that is asked of us. That is all that will ever be asked of us.
Of course, we show this faith through devotion to and love towards Him and we further express that faith through study of the Scriptures and through prayer, even though Paul does not mention either of those things here, it is certainly a logical leap to realize that those acts of devotion towards God to show our faith in Him are inferred. Furthermore, God is not just a God for the Jews. Even though the Jews are God’s chosen and anointed people He is for more than just them.
He is for everyone.
Even though we are not of His chosen Jewish people He still loves us and cares for us. That’s really pretty amazing. It could be said that He is obligated to love and care for the Jews because of His Covenant with Abraham. But, here’s the thing, He has no such covenant with the Gentiles. And yet, He loves us and cares for us, even though we are Gentiles all the same. God doesn’t care who we are, He cares that we believe in Him and that we love Him. He wants to know us every bit as much as we want to know Him.