13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
As the father of two small children, I spend a significant amount of time watching Disney movies. In light of today’s lectionary passage, I find myself reflecting on the story of Disney’s 1997 animated feature Hercules. In this retelling of the Greek myth, Hercules, the beloved child of the gods Zeus and Hera, is stolen away as an infant and (nearly) stripped of his divinity as part of a nefarious scheme. As a teenager, Hercules discovers his true parentage and excitedly heads to the local temple to meet Zeus and, as he so inspiringly sings, “to find where I belong!” Disappointingly, Zeus informs Hercules that Mount Olympus is only for those who are fully divine, but that, if he’s able to prove his worth and heroism, he will be welcomed home with open arms.
Today, I hear the words of Paul’s good news ringing in sharp contrast to those of Zeus. Zeus offers Hercules a chance to prove what has been inside him all along, to prove by his deeds that he is who he says he is and, only then, to be accepted as such.
As Christians, our story is quite the opposite. It was not through the law of works that our spiritual father Abraham, and we ourselves, received God’s promise. Rather, it was through a simple, childlike trust. God has offered us all his love, and that is something that no worthy or heroic deed, no gut-wrenching sacrifice, no endless grind through the workaday world could ever earn. In Christ’s death and resurrection, God our Father throws open the doors to a home that was never ours by merit of our birth or our deeds and sings out, “Come! I love you! This is where you belong!”
Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we thank you for your promise. Forgive us when we try to earn your love, to prove our hollow faithfulness, or to make our heroism the center of your story. Humble us so that we might listen to the words of your promise anew and find our home and our joy with you. Amen.
Jeff Lampen serves with his wife, Chelsea, and their children, Lorelei (four years) and Caspian (five months), in Lupeni, Romania. The Lampens work alongside the New Horizons Foundation, developing a faith-focused educational curriculum for youth groups and guiding international students through educational and spiritual experiences.