I love lists. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of things to clean, etc. Whatever it is, if I can make it into a list, I probably have.
There’s something about checking things off a list, signifying that that task is done and it’s time to move on.
It’s tempting to make the Christian life into a list. Bible read, check. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, check. Tithe, check. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if I could just have a list for how to follow God. But the thing about that list is that it’s been tried before. And the people failed, miserably. The Torah was what the Jewish people used to follow God before Jesus came.
There are 613 laws to follow in the Torah. 248 of these are positive (do this…) and the rest are negative commandments (do NOT do this…). Talk about a long list! With all of those rules, I’m sure to break one somewhere and possibly not even know it. But that’s the thing about lists. They are straightforward and leave no room for grace. You cleaned your house on the Sabbath because it was the only day you could? Sorry, you broke that rule. You wore polyester? You broke another rule.
That’s why Romans 4:13-25 is such good news. We don’t have to follow those 613 laws. And when we mess up (which we inevitably will), God’s grace is there for us. And that is great news!
God knows that we could never follow every rule or do everything exactly right. We are imperfect creatures, and our best will always fall short of God. BUT God promised us that we are His children, that He would love us no matter what, and that Jesus’ sacrifice means that we can be God’s friend forever. Grace sets us free from being buried in lists, from the anxiety that comes from never being able to follow all of the rules exactly right. Our faith makes us righteous in God’s eyes, not our ability to complete to-do lists.