Smile! This is a simile, not a political statement
When my brother was fighting death, we talked about Jesus. Oh, I believe in Jesus, my brother would tell me. And then he’d launch into tales about his horoscope or angels or the door-to-door faith salesman who’d sit and talk with my brother for hours.
“And 1” is a term related to basketball, but I kept thinking of it as my brother talked. And he wasn’t scoring any points. (An “and 1” is when a player gets fouled while attempting to make a basket, makes the shot anyway, and still gets the opportunity to shoot a free throw — for one additional point. So the 2 or 3 points for the shot and 1 more. More information here.)
My brother wasn’t scoring points because he didn’t need to add anything to faith in Jesus. You just need Him, I told Scott. Not Jesus and all these other beliefs and practices.
It was the same argument the Apostle Paul had with the Galatians, who were getting circumcised and trying to follow the Judean law in addition to faith in Christ. They wanted something they could tally and do to earn salvation, like earning points for their chores or getting a paycheck. Paul says repeatedly that we stand justified before God by faith in Jesus alone.
I try to add to that sometimes. I get legalistic. I get sidetracked by doing good things for God and forget that He was good to me first. So good.
The vaccine as a simile for faith alone
As I read through Galatians this week, I read it in light of the COVID vaccines and the arguments surrounding them. (This is not a political read; I just see parallels to what Paul was telling the church, what I told my brother, and what I need to tell myself when I tend toward legalism.)
Quite simply, people who believe in the vaccine have accepted the shot (or shots) and trust that it has done the work to save them from COVID. The vaccine alone. Once vaccinated, they feel free to return to normal life.
But others who have gotten the vaccine believe they also need to mask, socially distance, get a booster shot when it becomes available, and avoid people who are unvaccinated. What’s more, they want others — vaccinated or not — to do the same. They believe in the vaccine, they want others to get the vaccine, but they don’t trust it alone to save them. They must add to it for salvation from the coronavirus.
“And 1” or 2 or 5…
It seems a tangible illustration of our dependence on Christ alone for salvation. I love how Eugene Peterson says it in The Message version of Galatians:
“We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.”Galatians 2:15-16, MSG
Ah! We don’t have to do everything right. We don’t have to follow a list of rules. We don’t have to improve ourselves to make God love us. We believe in Jesus as the Messiah and we are made right with God. No social distancing necessary with Him! We can approach Him as we are. No masks needed. We can be ourselves.
Imagine a vaccine coursing through our bloodstream that doesn’t just protect our life from one virus here on this planet. Imagine one that protects you for eternity and enables you to live a righteous life — because the Great Physician doesn’t just inject righteousness in us to save us, He also provides His Spirit to live inside us so we can become more like Him. Christ in us.
Such good news! My brother came to understand that truth, too, just before he died. A pastor visited his patient room and shared the usual Gospel lingo: The wages of sin is death; the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus His Son; believe on Him and be saved.
“It can’t be that easy,” my brother had told the pastor then. He couldn’t believe he didn’t need faith in Jesus plus “and 1” points earned by good behavior. The pastor indicated that, yes, it was that easy.
And is. My friends, we need Jesus. Alone. A one-shot jab of Jesus. No politics required.
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