Election

No, not that one; the other controversial one.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Colossians 1:11-12 (RSV)

Reading these verses in Colossians the other day caused some reflection and discussion on the idea of election. In the political election process, being elected does not automatically make someone president. Technically, they are not the president until they take the oath of office. But what does it mean to be elect by God? Perhaps the idea of qualification as expressed in these verses can give us some insight.

What does it mean to be qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints? Does it mean we have it, no questions asked? The rest of Scripture does not support that since we are clearly told that there are things we are to do. Being qualified by the grace of God means we are given an opportunity, through no work of our own. We are qualified because God created us and loves us, in spite of our sin and rebellion. We are given a place in the race without having run the qualifier. God sets us up for success through the gift of faith and the equipping of the Holy Spirit, so we have all we need to finish the marathon. Now we get to run.

And we do have to run. No one crosses a finish line without moving towards it. And no one drifts toward God.

We are elect; we are predestined, every one of us, to worship God and to serve his Son by the power of his Spirit. Not all choose to serve, however. William Tecumseh Sherman famously stated, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected,” in reference to the Republican Party’s potential of putting him forth as a candidate in 1864. Unfortunately, many people respond in a similar way to God’s invitation.

There is always a worry about “salvation by works” when this sort of thing is discussed. I wish we had as much revulsion about “damnation by apathy.” Obviously we cannot save ourselves, but nowhere does Scripture teach that the logical outgrowth of that is to do nothing in response to God and his commands.

Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.

― Dallas Willard, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship

But don’t take Dallas’ word for it.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:36 (ESV)

We are elect; we are chosen; we are qualified. Unless we accept the invitation, show up, and run the race, we are ignoring God’s offer to us.

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