Word for Wednesday…Eligible
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.Romans 3:21-23
The text message came through yesterday at 4:25 PM. I didn’t recognize the number, but I embraced the news: As of today, I am now officially eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. Apparently, members of the clergy are considered frontline essential workers. Who knew? Of course, this doesn’t mean I can expect to get vaccinated today, or even in the immediate future. It simply means I can begin the excruciatingly tedious process of attempting to schedule an appointment. As strange as it may sound, like many of you, I have been looking forward to it.
Eligibility is an interesting concept. It implies the existence of two groups of people; those who are eligible and those who are not. The criteria for determining eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine were established by some very intelligent people, using a great deal of research, and therefore make some degree of sense. In many other situations, however, determinations of eligibility seem unfair, arbitrary, malicious even. Such is the case with the way many people apply the concept of eligibility to God’s gift of salvation.
One way this is evident is our tendency to prioritize who we share the Gospel with. Some folks struggle with sending money overseas to support the work of missions abroad, while others fail to see the need to support evangelistic efforts in their own communities. It can also be seen in who we invite to our churches and welcome in our worship services. These may not be conscious decisions, but they can reveal an unconscious bias that some people are more worthy of the Gospel than others. Some Christians even cloak their judgments of eligibility in what I believe are unscriptural theological beliefs, such as the doctrine of limited atonement, which states that Jesus did not die for all people, but only those God has arbitrarily chosen.
Of course, this is not a recent phenomenon. In the early Church, there were some Jewish Christians who were claiming that only those who shared their ancestry, or those who embraced all their religious practices, were eligible for God’s gift of salvation. To these individuals, and to all who would make similar claims in the future, Paul insisted, on the contrary, that since no one was eligible, since no one was worthy, to receive God’s gift of salvation, God sent Jesus, so that all could become eligible through his death and resurrection. There is no waiting list to become a follower of Jesus. There are no criteria that must be met before you can experience God’s salvation. It is a gift of God, given to all who put their faith in Christ Jesus.
— Pastor Geoff