We love our lists. They give us a sense of control; a means of comparison with others; a feeling of accomplishment. But the good news of the Gospel stands over against all such notions when it comes to the subject of salvation. In Jesus Christ the Messiah, all the lists of failures and accomplishments are tossed. He came to save His people from their sins. And so, for all who are sinners, there’s hope. Robert Capon put it this way:
The words of that dreadful Christmas song sum up perfectly the only kind of messianic behavior the human race, in it’s self-destructive folly, is prepared to accept: ‘He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice; he’s going to find out whose naughty and nice’ – and so on into the dark night of all the tests this naughty world can never pass. For my money, what Jesus senses clearly and for the first time in the coin in the fishes mouth is that He is not, thank God, Santa Clause. He will come to the worlds sins with no list to check, not test to grade, not debts to collect, no scores to settle. He will wipe away the handwriting that was against us and nail it to His cross. He will save, not some minuscule coterie of good little boys and girls with religious money in their piggy banks, but all the stone-broke, deadbeat, overextended children of this world whom He, as the son of man- the Holy Child of God, the ultimate Big Kid, if you please – will set free in the liberation of His death. And when He senses that… well, it is simply to laugh. He racks a ‘gone fishing’ sign over the sweatshop of religion, and for all the debts of all sinners who ever lived, He provides exact change for free. How nice it would be if the church could only remember to keep itself in on the joke.1
Capon writes elsewhere:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.2
1 Robert Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, p. 178.