“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the concept of a resume. In Europe and other places, it’s also called a “curriculum vitae,” which is Latin for basically “the course of my life.” 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. So, the resume is in a sense your justification for the position.
So, we’re 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 might 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? 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 the way Muslims think, Jews think, Buddhists think, Hindus think, Sikhs think, and pagans think; sometimes it’s referred to as “karma.” 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 reward us on the strength of our resumes. In fact, God doesn’t even look at our resumes when evaluating whether or not we receive salvation. 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 cannot, 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, his course of life and death to bring us salvation.
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.
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.
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 and that we first have to be perfect to earn salvation. 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. His way is for Him to save us out of His pure grace and mercy and then to sanctify us with the Holy Spirit to conform the course of our lives to His will – works flowing from faith. God’s ways are not our ways.
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 to us, and thanks be to God for that. God upholds mercy at the expense of fairness as the way He deals 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. We were natural born enemies of God due to the sin of Adam and then we compounded matters with our own sins. 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, death came through Adam, but grace and mercy and salvation comes through Christ.
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. And then we trust that God will work to sanctify us in this life and then perfect us in the resurrection life to come.
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 end 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.
(Image: A depiction of Christ’s crucifixion in a fresco at Osterhofen monastery church, by Cosmas Damian Asam. Mary is shown depicted with a sword piercing her own heart, in reference to Luke 2:35. The Apostle John is also shown.
Citation: From Osterhofen monastery church. Crucifixion – Fresco by Cosmas Damian Asam, 1728, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7062349 ).