When I was a boy my parents told me, “Sit up straight. Don’t slouch.” It was wise advice. Physically, good posture improves blood flow and fends off back pain. Socially, it communicates alertness and confidence.
Spiritually, what is our posture toward God? Do we turn our backs to him? Avert our eyes from him? Try to push him away?
Scripture insists that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and that little phrase, “fall short,” says a lot about our moral posture. Instead of standing tall and striding forward, we—all of us—have fallen down with our faces in the dirt. “Fall short” brings to mind dreams unfulfilled, goals unrealized, finish lines never crossed, and tasks left incomplete.
If I jump into the Atlantic Ocean in Maine and try to swim to England, I will fall short. If I try to drive my car from New York to Los Angeles on a single tank of gas, I will fall short. At five feet 11 inches tall, if I try to block the shot of a seven-foot-tall basketball player, I will fall short. Those examples seem absurd, but they are no more ridiculous than the concept that as a morally flawed, unforgiven human being I could enjoy an unspoiled relationship with my holy and righteous Creator.
Our sin makes us fall short, but God’s grace lifts us up. The Bible promises, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). Over and over again, Jesus lifted people up. When Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever, Jesus cured her sickness and “helped her up” (Mark 1:31). When Jesus encountered a demonic spirit that often tried to kill a boy by casting him into fire and water, the Lord cast out the demon, took the boy by the hand, “and lifted him up” (9:27). We’re all sick with sin and threatened with destruction by the devil, but through his death and resurrection, Christ rescues us and lifts us up.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God does for us what we could never do for ourselves, and as a result, his grace changes our posture toward the Lord and toward others.
We bow down. We join with the apostle Paul and “kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14), grateful that God has granted us mercy and favor we don’t deserve.
We look up. God is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3). David wrote, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” (40:2).
We reach out. With open arms we share Christ’s good news with others from a position of humility and compassion, not superiority and judgment. If I can’t swim from Maine to England, why should I look down on you because you can’t do it either? If I know what it’s like to be ashamed and alienated from God, what should be my posture toward others in their shame and alienation? God’s grace is so abundant that there’s plenty to go around. My posture ought to be, “Friend, how can I lift you up?”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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