“Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21 NLT)
We would readily transmogrify this verse into “Whoever finds Jesus will find eternal life” and preach a “Gospel” sermon devoid of the ethical content that is essential to entering the covenant relationship and God’s kingdom. We (wrongly) assume people will study the Word and follow Jesus.
Jesus was/is the personification of walking in God’s ways, the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a deliverer. But we have reduced him to a conceptual shorthand for salvation that we portray as being about “relationship,” not walking in God’s ways.
Over the past century, we have forgotten that the shorthand ‘Jesus’ represented was the entire idea of walking in God’s ways so we could be his people and a light that would bless all nations.
In the process of emphasizing our out-of-context Jesus, we lost the whole Gospel. We left our people with a fragmentary truth that may or may not lead to salvation, depending on whether their leaders are making disciples or merely notching their convert count and filling the barn with “Christians” who are not God’s people.
But the Word says, “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.”
When the fellow asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life and the Lord pointed him to the “Old” Testament command to love both God and neighbor, Jesus’ admonition was “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10:28)
We do not understand the role right living plays in salvation.
Salvation comes to a household when Jesus is accepted as God in the flesh, the personification of walking in God’s ways, and we begin to follow him as he shows us how to walk in God’s ways. Salvation cannot be divorced from the day-to-day implications of living out God’s righteousness and justice in our lives, individually and as members of a community.