Many of you know that I still have a dump phone. I recently got a new, old dumb phone that kind of didn’t work for some reason or another, so I got another new old dumb phone from my wife who got herself a brand new smart phone.
Julie warned me that her old dumb phone was, shall we say, really dumb. Really, really dumb.
But I shrugged it off as it couldn’t be that bad. Boy, was I wrong.
I once was a rather adept text-ter. But on this new old dumb phone I have been rendered powerless to the ineptness of this device.
What once would take me seconds to text now takes the same time of a stone carver.
But fortunately, this device, unlike my old device, has that wonderful, helpful aid—Auto Correct!
If you don’t know what auto-correct is let me tell you.
Phone manufacturers developed this allegedly helpful feature which is supposed to correct your terrible typing into a discernible message.
Problem is that while auto-correct can read your typing, it can’t read your mind; and the results are often disturbingly hilarious. Here are some examples:
A Guy to his Buddy: “How was the date?”
Buddy: “Awesome! At the end I killed her.”
Guy: “Gee, that bad?”
Buddy: “No, I meant I kissed her. Stupid auto-correct!”
How about this one between two friends:
Friend 1: OMG, my neighbor is getting arrested.
Friend 2: OMG, for what?
Friend 1: I don’t know, but it sounds serious. He’s cuffed and the cop is reading him his banana rights.
Friend 2: Banana Rights?! “You have the right to a banana. If you cannot afford a banana a really old bruised one will be provided to you.”
You get the idea. One auto-corrected word can mean the difference between a great night out, or spending the rest of your life in prison!
But here is one auto correct that was misintended that actually had some truth to it nonetheless.
“Hold on a minute, I think there are some Bible badgers at the door.”
“Bible badgers? I’ll bet they’re tenacious.”
“No, Bible bangers. But, actually, badgers may not be far off.”
Like I said, misintended, but holding some truth nonetheless, because sometimes us Bible badgers can get the words wrong, even when we are striving to be a reflection of what Jesus called us to do.
The apostle Paul is writing to a Roman church that is struggling with some auto-correctness of their own.
There’s a conflict between Jewish Christians, who recently returned to Rome after being expelled by the emperor, Claudius, and the Gentile converts who likely made up most of the group in the small house churches that dotted the city.
Paul is trying to help them get their words right, since both groups tend to auto-correct their language and understanding back to what they knew before they became followers of Jesus.
In fact, Paul has been making a particular argument throughout the letter to the Romans, inviting them to take on a common vocabulary.
In the first three chapters Paul states that everyone, both Jew and Gentile, are the same because, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
In chapter 4, he reveals God’s plan to address the problem through the covenant with Abraham, whom God blessed so that they, in turn, would be a blessing to the world, drawing all the nations to God. Additionally, Paul talks about how through Moses, God gave Israel the law as a way of marking them as a called out and set apart people.
Then in Romans five through eight Paul tells how the law itself wasn’t the ultimate solution to the world’s problems, saying, the law will only keep you focused on sin itself. It is faith in Christ that is the solution to sin.
What Paul has been doing to this point is mapping out the common language and community that was now possible for both Jews and Gentiles to share because of what God has done in Jesus. He has been crafting and structuring the language of faith.
Whereas the Jews once focused on the law and the Gentiles once focused on philosophy and social status, now their common focus was on Christ.
This brings us to chapter ten and Paul’s desire that those who are stuck in the old language of law would skip the auto-correctness and embrace Christ correctness.
“For being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there might be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
When Paul talks of “righteousness” he is not talking about self-righteousness.
He is talking about God’s covenant faithfulness; he’s talking about God following through on the plan to rescue the world that was announced to Abraham and accomplished by Jesus.
Ok, I realize that was a lot of heady, theological stuff. But its important because Paul is working hard to help the differing groups and cultures grasp that it doesn’t have to be as hard as they are making it out to be.
But despite his best efforts, there’s still a problem.
When these Romans he was writing to went to type “faith”; when they heard the word “faith”; they were auto-correcting it into the word “law.”
They were still focusing on law, still only focusing on sin—particularly the sin of others, and were stuck with only the right and the wrong—their rightness, and the wrongness of others.
Now Paul never denies that obedience is something that God requires from us, but he shows that outward obedience to a set of rules is not the primary way we become the people of God.
Rather what is required to become the people of God is the “righteousness by faith”—meaning we are to put our complete trust in God and pattern our lives after God’s Son—not righteousness by law, righteousness by faith.
What all of this means it that God doesn’t require us to be Bible badgers, or Bible bangers, for that matter.
Our faith isn’t expressed by cracking people over the head with a Scofield Reference Bible and reminding them of the rules they’re not following.
Nor is it about focusing on the rules as the primary way we can make ourselves acceptable to God. That’s auto-correction of the worst sort.
“Auto” means “self,” and if the only correction we get is by depending on our own self-righteous adherence to a set of laws, our lives are going to look way sillier than a messed up text message.
Paul is calling us to not be auto-corrected—not self-righteously correct—but to be Christ-corrected, to find righteousness by faith in Jesus—who died for us.
This calling, however, is being missed by many Christians today, and because it is, the world is auto-correcting the idea of just what a Christian is.
And it is even more disturbing than auto-corrected text messages.
Sara Critchfield, who is now the former managing editor of Upworthy.com, is a dear friend of mine, and we both served on the Faculty for Advance Conference a few weeks ago.
Sara’s work with Upworthy.com gave her the opportunity to work with people from all around the world.
One day it became known to her co-workers that Sara was a Christian.
Word of her faith got around and eventually it was said to her that coworkers were surprised to hear she was a Christian because she didn’t seem like a Christian.
My friend, as you might imagine, was crushed by such a statement.
She wondered what awful horrible things she had said or done to make people find it hard to believe that she was a Christian.
What Sara eventually found out was that people were surprised to hear she was a Christian, and that she didn’t seem like a Christian, because she didn’t judge people who were not Christian, she didn’t bash or badger people with the Bible.
Instead, she was compassionate, an advocate for those pushed to the margin, open-minded, and loving.
How unbelievably sad.
Today’s world auto-corrects the term “Christian” into “judgmental-bible badger-jerks.” How have we let that happen?
Righteousness of faith isn’t a set of rules, it’s a way of life.
Paul doesn’t want us to be auto-corrected; he calls us to be Christ-corrected. “No one who believes in [Jesus] will be put to shame.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or a Greek, if you’ve been read Miranda rights or banana rights—because when you are in Christ, you are always made right!
But it’s not just about getting ourselves Christ-corrected, it’s about sharing him with the rest of the world that’s been constantly getting the wrong message.
Paul says, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim them?”
Sharing and living out faith in Christ are the ways in which God uses us to bring Christ-correcting grace into the world.
It’s not about badgering people into it, but about sharing the grace and love of Christ through how we live our lives.
Saint Francis of Assisi, that same man whom today’s Pope Francis derived his name from, said, “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”
May these words and call be at the forefront of our efforts to share with the world how it is Christ corrects all blunders, all failures, all sins—and how Christians truly are called to live.
For when we do such, truly then, are “beautiful the feet of those who bring Good News.”
That’s a message that all of us Bible badgers should be tapping out every day. Amen.