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Trash Picking

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Grace, Salvation, Sin, Sinner

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? … As regards the Gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all.

(Romans 11:13-15, 28-32)

The last sentence disturbs a lot of people: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all.” It sounds like God is dealing with people wholesale, not looking at every individual soul, every individual sin. And to be truthful, that sounds kind of unfair. If God is just going to hand everybody over to disobedience, and then have mercy on everybody, why should I personally bother trying to live a good life? Why bother growing in faith? (If I sound cranky, that’s because I am.)

And of course there are other places in the Bible that emphasize how God deals with each one of us individually. You can start with Ezekiel 18 if you want to read some of that. But what is going on in today’s passage? I think God is trying to make a point about sin and mercy. And that point is one I think of as “No trash picking.”

What I mean is this: it’s super easy to get caught up in thinking about our sins, or the sins of other people, and tallying them up on a kind of mental list. “Well, I’ve done this and this, but not that, like that person over there!” “Oh, I keep doing this and this and I can’t seem to stop—God must be so frustrated with me.” “I wonder if God can ever forgive me when I’ve sinned, not just seven times or seventy times seven, but seven zillion times!” Sound familiar?

But think of it for a moment from Jesus’ perspective. When He laid down His life for our salvation, He did it wholesale—completely—as a single great act. When He shed His blood for us, it wasn’t “This many drops for this sin, and that many drops for the other one.” No, it was “My life for everyone.” It was complete. And His last words to us were “It is finished.”

If all of our sins are forgiven—if trusting in Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead, is enough to clear the accounts of every human being on earth—then what sense does it make to obsess over details? Making lists of sins, comparing sins, arguing about who’s guiltier—from Jesus’ perspective, it must look a lot like picking through the trash. He died to take out the trash—not to make us sit down and go through it piece by piece, calculating. Sin is behind us. Life is ahead. Forget the trash. Look at Jesus only.

We Pray: Lord, set my eyes on You alone. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on August 16, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. Do you ever fall into the trap of thinking more about sin than Jesus?
2. How does it make you feel?
3. How do you feel when you focus on Jesus instead?