The teenager walking into the public junior high school wore a T-shirt with one word on the back. In large, bold letters it read: “Justified.”
I thought, “How awesome! Here is a young Christian professing faith in salvation, who knows Jesus, knows enough theology to praise Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins, probably got the shirt while participating in an uplifting Christian youth program, and is courageously wearing that message into public school. Right on!”
Then I saw the front of the shirt, which named the school mascot followed by the word “Pride.” It was a school spirit shirt, not a Holy Spirit confession. The shirt’s message, coming, was “School Pride.” Going, it was “Justified.”
My creative hope for this small slice of spiritual revival had rushed ahead of reality. It was just an innocuous, secular piece of community-building apparel, not a crusade. While my brain had run on ahead to all that the Bible and especially the Apostle Paul had to say about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross providing sinful man with justification before God, the student had merely pulled on a t-shirt and gone to school. Most likely it wasn’t even a prideful decision, just the next shirt in the pile.
And so it goes in our daily lives. Even if we aren’t teenagers, how many of us just “pull the next shirt out of the pile” and go about our day without ever thinking about the great spectrum of divine life? How many folks in the world rarely make a decision based on Christ’s mercy, God’s glory, or the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Of course, one of the main problems we all encounter is that our “shirts” are often stacked against us. The world’s message is focused on the “seen” and the “felt,” not the mystery and subtlety of God’s message. The world sees the word “justified” as a simple descriptive for self-evident authority, not as the first phase of our soteriological (salvation) journey to a redeemed life in the eternal heavens glorifying God Almighty.
The world promotes taking pride in ourselves for our own sakes rather than endorsing pride in Jesus Christ for God’s glory. Paul encountered the Corinthian church in all its legalisms, Judaizing, false teachings and idols, and encouraged the right-believing Christians there to take pride in the truth of Christ, to “take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart” (2 Corinthians 5:12).
The “seen” is the world, and “what is in the heart” is Jesus Christ.
We are justified, truly, only when our pride rests in Christ.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) can read a lot into a T-shirt.