Everyone is fairly familiar with the concept of a resume. In Europe and other places, it’s also frequently called a “curriculum vitae,” which is Latin for basically “the course of my life.” So, a resume details the course of your life: where you went to school, what you studied, where you’ve worked, what skills you have. The idea is that prospective employers can look at your resume – the course of your life – to see if you are the right fit for a particular job and merit the position. The resume is in a sense your justification for employment.
So, we’re somewhat used to resumes in our lives, we post them on job boards, we send them to potential employers, we judge others by their resumes. But, what if God demanded a resume from us? What if he wanted our resumes to judge us? What would be on our resumes then?
Our first reaction might be to fill our resumes for God with all our good works. That’s kinda what we do with resumes for jobs; we try to put our “best foot forward.” So, in our resume for God, we would note all the good things we’ve done, the people we’ve helped, the nice things we’ve said. We might note that we saved grandma’s feelings from getting hurt when we told her that her meatloaf was good, rather than saying what we really thought. We might put down the time we returned the extra change that was given to us at the store checkout counter. We might note the flat tires we’ve changed for strangers. We might record any number of good deeds in our “God resumes,” placing ourselves in the best light possible in our written record of the course of our life.
This idea of a “God resume” is how a lot of people think. How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines that they feel they’ve done more good than bad in their lives, so God will reward them? I remember when Paul Newman died a few years ago, there was a quote from him on a magazine cover that said that he felt he had done more good than bad in his life, so he was going to be ok. This is essentially the “God resume” mentality; the belief that we present to God a list of our accomplishments and good deeds and that He will reward us with heaven according to the strength of our resumes. It’s as if God is searching resumes on job boards, picking those that seem good and then bringing those people into heaven.
This is a common way of thinking in our culture, and indeed throughout the world across cultures. This is actually the default religion of mankind, which is a “works-based” religion, or you can think of it as a resume-based religion. The idea is that we are rewarded based on the strength of our resumes, that is we are rewarded based upon how good our course of life has been or how closely we have followed the “rules.” So, our salvation in this way of thinking depends upon us, it depends upon our lives. We must pad our resumes to make ourselves look “good,” so that God will choose us.
But, this is not how God actually works, for He works in a mysterious way, a way that is foreign to our normal way of thinking. God doesn’t justify us on the strength of our resumes. In fact, God doesn’t even look at our resumes when evaluating whether or not we get into heaven. He would be the worst HR manager, because He throws our resumes in the trash. He takes our resumes and discards them and gives us the resume of His Son instead. This is because His Son’s resume is the only one that is “good,” because it is the only one that is perfect. For His Son’s course of life accomplished what we can not, no matter how hard we try and no matter how many great works we’ve done. God’s Son – Jesus Christ – was perfect, perfectly fulfilling God’s Holy Law and perfectly suffering the punishment we deserve for our sins. This is what is on His resume.
So, before God, our resumes are empty, because no matter how many good things we’ve done, we can’t make up for the fact that we’re not perfect. We can’t overcome the fact that we are sinners and not capable of the perfection that God demands and expects. We can’t justify ourselves before God, we can’t save ourselves, on the strength of our resumes.
So, God doesn’t look at all the good things we have on our resumes. But, thanks be to God that He works in a mysterious way. For through faith in Christ, God also doesn’t look at the bad things that we’ve done. In our earthly resumes, we put our best foot forward and we hide our failings. But, God knows our failings, He knows our sins; He knows what we do that we keep secret from everyone else; He knows the things that we would be ashamed to put on our resumes. But, through Christ, God removes all this from His sight and only looks at Christ rather than our good and bad. He looks at Christ’s resume, instead of our own, and Christ’s resume is perfect; it justifies us sinful people before our holy Lord God.
This is why Jesus in Mark’s Gospel tells his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:27-38).
Think of the resume again. Whoever relies upon his resume – his own course of life – to be saved will not be saved, but whoever discards his resume and takes Christ’s resume – his course of life – instead – through faith – will save it. Christians are not like the pagans of the world who rely upon their course of life to be saved; rather, we rely upon Christ’s course of life – and his death – to be saved. We throw out all that is our own – both our good and our bad – and instead claim Christ’s work as our own. This is claimed through faith.
So, we die to ourselves and live to Christ instead, for Christ died for us. He told his disciples that this would happen, that he must go to Jerusalem “and suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” But, Peter didn’t want to hear this, so he tried to rebuke Jesus. Peter was thinking according to the ways of the world and not according to the mysterious way of God. Peter was coming out of that resume mindset, so Jesus had to rebuke him instead, telling him “… you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:27-38). And this was immediately after Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ; Peter seems to not have quite understood what that meant yet.
For God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our ways are to build up our personal resumes; our thoughts are that our course of life will save us. But, God’s way was to send His Son to die for us; His thoughts are to save us through the actions of His Son on the cross and the empty tomb and to give us Christ’s resume as our own. God’s ways are not our ways.
Similarly, when the Lord appeared to Abraham to tell him that he would have a son and through him be the father of many nations, Abraham was nearly 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 90, and they had no children of their own together. But, God promised that Sarah would have a son and this son would be the one through whom the promise would continue. This seemed preposterous to Abraham; Abraham laughed and thought it impossible that Sarah, at her old age, would bear a child. So, Abraham suggested to the Lord that his son Ishmael, born to his concubine Hagar, would be the one through whom the promise would continue (Genesis 17:1ff).
But, God’s ways are not our ways. Abraham tried to solve the apparent problem of Sarah’s old age by suggesting that his son by his concubine be the one with whom God established his covenant. Abraham wanted to “help God out,” by suggesting a more reasonable plan. But, with God all things are possible and he is not limited by our sense of what is reasonable or possible or appropriate. So, God said to Abraham, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (Genesis 17:19).
And this Isaac, born of Abraham and Sarah at their great old age, would be the one to whom Jacob was born and then Jacob would be the father of the people of Israel, from whom Jesus Christ would come. What seemed laughable in the eyes of the world, God brought to pass. God didn’t take note of what Abraham thought seemed possible or reasonable, instead He did things according to what He knew needed to be done. In the same way, Jesus didn’t take note of what Peter thought was possible or reasonable, but did what he knew needed to be done. Thank God that he doesn’t take our advice.
God said “no” to Abraham’s more “reasonable” idea, just as He said “no” to Peter’s more “reasonable” idea in the Gospel reading, for God’s ways are not our ways, and He is unreasonable by our standards, because He is not fair; rather, He is merciful.
In our culture, and indeed in the cultures of the world, fairness tends to be held up as the highest good. People get upset when things seem unfair. In Great Britain, restaurants put carefully marked lines on their glasses so that when you get your drink you can be assured that you got the same as everyone else, so that it’s all fair. I once had a guy behind me in the security line in the Atlanta airport who decried the unfairness of having to go through security again during his travels. We get so upset at what’s fair and what’s not fair that we sometimes forget that God isn’t fair either. It isn’t fair that He would save sinners, it isn’t fair that He sent His perfect Son to die; it isn’t fair, but it is merciful, and thanks be to God for that. God upholds mercy at the expense of fairness as the way He deal with us, and we ought to do the same for others.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans also writes about the preposterous, mysterious, and unfair nature of God’s ways (Romans 5:1-11). He points out that while we were still weak, while we were enemies of God, God sent His Son to die for us. That isn’t how the world operates, for we would scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person we might dare to die, as when soldiers risk their lives for each other.
But, we risk our lives for those like us, for our friends. But, God did more than this. His Son died for His enemies. He died for us, while we were still his enemies. Our resumes weren’t up to snuff, and yet the Lord in His mercy sent His Son to die for us and therefore reconcile us to Him. He came to give us His credentials so that we might be saved. He came to die on the cross for sinners, for you, for people who could offer nothing to God to earn their salvation. He did this because of God’s great love and mercy for you, a love and mercy seen in the shadow of the cross.
So, through faith we take up Christ’s cross as our own; as the instrument by which God reconciled us to Himself. In the eyes of the world, the cross is shameful and ridiculous and inappropriate, even; but in our eyes of faith, the cross is the means of our salvation. And through faith, we empty ourselves, wipe clean our resumes, and take hold of Christ and his resume instead.
So, through faith, Christ’s resume is what we submit to God instead of our own. And this resume simply says, “For this one I died and claimed as my own. He is God’s child now.”
This is all yours now. All of Christ’s righteousness is yours, freely and without cost, because Christ has given you the benefits of his resume. This is a righteousness that exists outside of yourself, in someone else’s course of life – Christ’s course of life and his death and his resurrection into life. So, this is your fate as well – to die and rise to new life, a life in Christ, with Christ. This began in your Baptism and will extend out into eternity in the presence of the Lord and your fellow believers – all those who also entered into the eternal presence of the Lord on the strength of Christ’s resume, rather than their own. Amen.
(Picture by Pdpics (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChrist_Cross_Religion.jpg and pdpics.com).