Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Justification by Faith Alone
Texts: Galatians 2:15-21; Ephesians 2:12; Philippians 3:9; Romans 3:10-20; Genesis 15:5-6; Romans 3:8 July 22, 2017
The benefits of faith are sometimes hard to quantify. In one case, faith saved a life. Linda Baker of Seattle adopted a stray dog named Rudy from a shelter just days before they were going to euthanize him. A single woman in her 50s, Linda developed a special bond with Rudy.
“We have a lot of rituals together,” she says. “Every night we have a little bedtime snack. Then I get in my bed and he gets in his doggy bed right next to mine. A year ago, suddenly Rudy didn't want to do the routine. Every night when I got in bed, he'd jump up on my bed and start licking my face, even though he knows he’s not supposed to. I’d get mad and make him get off but the next night he’d do it again. Soon he was jumping on my lap to lick my face every time I sat down.”
That’s when Linda became curious. “I was considering taking him to obedience school when it dawned on me that he was licking the same spot on my jaw. I felt my jaw and it seemed okay. I didn’t have any pain but it was so out of character for my dog that I decided to just trust him.” She made a doctor’s appointment, feeling a bit silly revealing why she came in. Her doctor ran some tests and discovered bone cancer, with a tumor in Linda’s jaw. No one could feel it from the outside but somehow Rudy knew it was there. “I just finished chemo and radiation,” reports Baker, “and I'm doing much better now. The doctors said if I’d waited until the tumor was big enough to be felt, it likely would have been fatal. I saved my dog’s life and now he’s saved mine!" Rudy’s instinct justified Linda’s well-placed faith. 
It seems like a stretch to put faith in a dog’s intuition to find a life-threatening health issue, but many have the same challenge trusting that Jesus justifies us by faith alone. This week’s lesson explores that “faith alone” challenge. Many of us can verbalize that we believe in it. It is, after all, a major tenet of Protestant faith. But living as if we believe it is another matter. We humans tend to want to do something to earn or deserve our rewards.
Wednesday’s lesson explores that challenge with the topic “The Obedience of Faith.” This seems like an oxymoron to some. What role does obedience play in the notion of justification by faith alone? Does obedience actually negate faith? The logical conclusion that some arrive at is that obedience actually demonstrates a lack of faith. Living by faith, however, is a tangible way to exhibit obedience. Linda believed in Rudy’s concern for her well-being, and acting on that faith saved her life.