What does it really mean to live a “plus” life instead of a “subtraction” life? I grappled with this question as I prepared my sermon-close this past week. I think it is easy to brush off Pastor David’s challenge by listing off the things that we do on a daily basis that add value to other people’s lives. I do my dishes when my wife doesn’t ask me to, or I offer rides to the other interns when we go to work on Mondays. By no means do I want to discount those things, because doing good is always great, but is that what makes us “plus” people?
I tried to think of examples of “plus” people in the Bible in order to examine what made them truly “plus” people. Abraham was regarded as righteous because he was willing to sacrifice his son. Abel was a plus person for offering the better sacrifice; Noah was for building an Ark out of faith. Joseph didn’t waver in his faithfulness and blessed the whole nation of Egypt, and Moses stood up against Pharaoh to rescue his people. Rahab sheltered the spies of Joshua. Esther convinced the king to spare the Israelites. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and converted thousands after his first sermon, while Paul became the apostle to the gentiles responsible for most of the New Testament.
One of the things I noticed after coming up with that list of people was that they weren’t “plus” people because of how good their actions were. The common thread that linked all of them together was an unbreakable faithfulness to God. They were plus people because they trusted God. Each of them found themselves in pretty dire circumstances and had to act on faith. This conclusion seems to agree with what James says in James 2:21-24,
Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
There are two senses to the word “justify” in the Greek, the first is in the judicial sense: it means to be or become judicially vindicated as having complied with the law. This was the sense of the word that Paul used in Romans and Galatians where he wrote about receiving justification by faith. The second sense, which makes more sense in light of the context of the book of James, is the sense of being shown to be right. In other words being vindicated. Abraham was shown to be righteous by evidence of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar!
So how do we become “plus” people? By being faithful! Our actions and reactions to circumstances should flow out of our faithfulness to God. That’s what the patriarchs did, that’s what the apostles did, and that’s what we’ve been mandated to do!