For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us). (Romans 4:16 NRSV)

Abraham was not the great father of faith because he kept the letter of the law, but rather because he lived his life in faith. Abraham was a very imperfect man, as the Genesis writer makes abundantly clear. If he depended on his righteousness to save him, he was doomed as all of us are doomed. His faith, Paul tells us, "was reckoned to him as righteousness."

One night after supper Stan Gaede asked his sixteen-year-old cousin, Paul, to go for a drive with him. As they drove over a hill where some road construction was in process they collided head-on with another car. Stan's car was totaled. Stan suffered a crushed ankle, a broken leg, and a shattered jaw in addition to extensive lacerations. He spent most of that night in emergency surgery. Following the accident Stan spent days in critical condition. They did not tell him for several days that his passenger--his cousin Paul--was dead. The news of Paul's death came as a shock to him. Stan kept asking, "why" the accident had happened.

He was lying in a hospital bed--leg in traction and head swollen beyond recognition--when his father told him that Paul's parents wanted to see him. Stan was in pain--not just physical pain, but a feeling of total forsakenness and fear and embarrassment. His mouth was wired shut. With a swollen tongue he was unable to speak. He could only watch as his aunt and uncle--Paul's parents--entered his hospital room. They walked toward his bed and smiled. He wondered how they could be smiling at a time like this. They walked over to his bed and held his hand. His aunt and uncle whispered in his ear. "You're our son now, too, you know."

"Those are words I will never forget," Stan says, "for they were not words I deserved nor expected. They were, of course, words of grace."

Dear God, thank you for the grace you give me in my imperfection. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Ron Newhouse

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