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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Thoughts on Reformation: Matthew 11:12-19

Over the past few years, a question has been looming over whether the Reformation is still relevant. Does the Reformation still matter? Another way to rephrase this is: Is the Gospel of Christ still relevant--the justification of sinners for Christ's sake by grace received through? For that is what the Reformation was all about.

But that raises a second and related question: Is Justification still relevant today? Does justification still make sense? Does it have a reality in our daily lives and how we understand the world around us? Or is it just another doctrinal code word Lutherans like to use?

Not only does Justification still make sense. Justification is foundational for how we relate to ourselves, to the world around us, and to God.
"There is no more fundamental desire of the human race than justification, that is, to justify one's being and existence. It is a human universal. I justify my wealth. I justify the time spent working away from family. I justify the approach I have taken toward my children. I justify the treatment of my wife. I justify my value to my employer. I justify my right to pennies from a wealthier man. I justify my right to your money. I justify my callousness toward my neighbor. I justify my lack of charity. I justify my plea for various commodities or humanitarian aid. I justify my lethargy. I justify my thievery by lying to others and believing the lies myself. I justify my tribe's hatred of 'those people.' Universally practiced and understood, the language of 'justification' is a fundamental phenomenon of life in society" (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 55-56).
Everything we do, everything we say, everything we think and feel, everything we are, we seek to justify by some means or another. And you don't get more relevant than that.

But all our justification falls short. No matter how much we try to justify ourselves, who we are and what he have done or not done, no matter the circumstances, there is no justification for it outside of Christ. For wisdom is justified by her deeds.

In the end we will be justified by deeds. Ultimately, we are justified by works. But whose works will they be? Will they be our own? Or will they be Wisdom's. Will they be the works of our flesh? Or will they be the deeds of Wisdom, the deeds of the Holy Spirit and the Word made flesh? In other words, in whose deeds will you put your trust?

Only Wisdom is justified by her deeds. And what are those deeds? The deeds of our Lord's active and passive obedience. Those deeds are the only deeds the justify the deeds of the sinner. They are the only deeds that justify the sinner himself. And that is what the Reformation was all about. How much more relevant can you get?