Greater than sin. Greater than hardship. Greater than any other vice, Jesus is my stumbling block. I would have never admitted this before, but there it was, staring me in the face. Romans 9:31-33:
“…Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.””
I constantly remind myself that the Word of God is not only for me, but about me. In fact, I’ve made a habit of asking myself, “who am I in this passage?” Every now and then I’m the hero that God uses mightily, but most times I’m not. Like in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), I’m the brother who stayed home. Sure I’m glad my prodigal brother came to himself, but I’ve been here all along! Where’s my party? I’m one of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20), who started working at dawn only to be joined by someone who’s been goofing off all day. Yes, I know I agreed to this wage, but why would he, after working a fraction of the time, receive the same pay!? I’m the Pharisee in the temple (Luke 18:9-14). I pay my tithes. I fast twice a week. And yet the one, who claims to be our Messiah, rebukes me and justifies a tax collector (which would be a modern day con artist). What?!
Ok, let’s go back to the beginning.
God chose the Jewish nation as His chosen people and used the law to show them their need for a Savior. After years of striving and failing, the Jews neglected God, but ironically embraced His law, equating it to salvation. God saw their hearts sinking deep in religiosity and legality and decided to do something about it. He sent his son, Jesus, who turned the world upside down. Choosing the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong, Jesus became their stumbling block.
In full pursuit of righteousness, I stumble over Jesus…and fall into grace. His love makes me realize that even on my BEST day: I am the prodigal son; I am granted more than I deserve; I am no better than a con artist. And yet, He loves me. Jesus calls me out of sin not into a life of “dos and don’ts” but into an authentic relationship that is life-changing. Relying on merit and works, I stumble. But instead of turning away, Jesus helps me to my feet and I stand there…in awe at the profundity of His love and the mystery of His Godliness.