Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:1-8
This was the verse that started my trek toward ordained ministry.
I was had signed up for a Seminary class for fun on Biblical Storytelling, and the teacher suggested I take a couple more classes to get a lay ministry certificate.
So the next course I took was on the Bible. It was where I learned Biblical Exegesis - the process of methodical and analytical study of scripture in order to produce useful and faithful interpretations of those passages. It's the process that Bible teachers and preachers go through with each text to come to the meaning the author intended. (the opposite of exegesis being eisegesis, in which we read our own ideas into scripture).
I was the only Lutheran in the program so I chose this passage because, well, you know, the whole justified by faith thing.
I can't go into the whole process I took with this passage, but I'll tell you that the word that struck me most then, and strikes me most now, is hope.
Hope does not disappoint us.
Christians will argue over theology - including what 'justified by faith' means. But when you read this passage, you have to ask what Paul wanted us to know. Was he looking for a theological debate...
Or did he want us to know that hope won't let us down, and that God's love will win out.
Maybe it was that - hope - that moved me to go beyond the certification program toward ministry.
Hope and trust in a God who loves so extravagantly, so faithfully, and so deeply that this God would call someone even like me.
Remind me to hope when I forget how much you love me! Amen