But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)
Do you ever find yourself trying to do that? Trying to justify yourself? When I read this phrase the other day, it simply stopped me in my tracks. Because I do that all the time. In fact, most of the things I do in my life are nothing more than feeble attempts to justify my own existence. It reminds me of a line from that old classic movie Chariots of Fire where one of the characters (Harold Abrams) is asked about his upcoming race and he says, "And now in one hour's time, I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; four feet wide, with ten lonely seconds to justify my existence. But will I?" What a powerful, yet incredibly haunting, line. You can hear, and feel, the very weight of the world squarely on his shoulders. It is simply too much for one person to bear.
Justifying my existence doesn't involve running in the Olympics, but that doesn't make it feel like any less a burden. Daily I live with the idea in my head that I am "not enough" and can never "measure up." It is an idea that has grown in me and taken root deep in my heart and soul. It is an idea whose roots run so deep that it is incredibly difficult to uproot them completely. And it significantly effects the way I go about living my life; constantly pushing me to try and prove to myself, and to my world, that I am valuable. To convince myself that what I have to contribute is important. I don't know about you, but I constantly feel the need to prove to the world that the work that I do, the ministry I have, that the gifts I possess, are necessary and significant. It tends to keep me running breathlessly about, and can be overwhelming and exhausting at times.
But Jesus calls me to live out of another voice altogether. For he has given me all of the justification my life will ever need. I am fully and freely justified in him (see Romans 3:24). His love for me defines me. His deep affection for me gives me my value and worth. So I don't have to run around looking for someone or something to justify my existence; he alone does that. He alone gives me freedom. Freedom to be loved, and more importantly, freedom to love. I can genuinely love his world, because I do not need anything (affirmation, attention, importance) from his world. I think that is why the main character in Chariots of Fire (Eric Liddell), when asked why he ran, was able to beautifully answer, I run because "when I run I feel his pleasure." May it be the same for us.
Lord Jesus, help me to live in the fullness of the freedom you have provided; the freedom from having to justify myself--my life, my existence, my work, my worth. Thank you that justification is a free gift from you, the fruit of your love and obedience. You have taken away my sin and have given me your righteousness. All that you have, you give to me. Thanks be to God!
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