We recently moved into a new home and, as an incentive to take part in a discount on our home insurance premium, the company sent us a smart home monitoring system we could install to protect our home and prevent unforeseen emergencies. As I walked through the installation guide, I viewed a short video in which various scenarios were portrayed to convince me of imminent threats: a home invasion or a slow water leak that could potentially turn into a basement remodeling project costing thousands of dollars we don’t have. The three-minute tutorial closed with the reassurance we were investing in more than home security … we were guaranteeing “peace of mind.”

Isn’t this what virtually every commercial advertisement aims to accomplish? First there’s the depiction of a situation in which the viewer is made to feel inadequate or lacking in some capacity, the inducement of “not enoughness,” followed by the implementation of a functional savior: a product that once purchased will ease our anxieties, assuage our fears, and (for all intents and purposes) bring about a subtle form of justification and relief to our consciences. Think about it: have you ever actually been sold a car, a pair of shoes, a soft drink, a phone, an appliance? If it was effective marketing, you were sold the right car, the right shoes, the right phone, etc. You were ultimately presented with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase salvation. 

This past Saturday, we celebrated Reformation Day, that historic episode in which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg as a refutation of (among multiple indiscretions) the church’s literal selling of salvation via the practice of indulgences. Approximately 500 years later, Luther’s attentive focus on guarding what he considered the most distinctive matter of the Christian faith, the article of justification, still remains relevant, but not just from what we would call a ‘religious’ perspective. Every message we hear in this present age in just about every institution and relational dynamic where we interact attempts to sell us some form of righteousness on the condition that we pay the right price, do enough work, and merit our way to the rich blessings of comfort, security, and ultimately identity. I thank God for the promise tucked away at the end of the New Testament where St. John depicts the blessed life to come. Referencing Isaiah, the beloved apostle records these words, 

He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.’

The gospel is the one announcement in this present age rife with demand and obligation that delivers substantive, concrete justification without charge, without cost, and without the need to struggle through an unhelpful installation guide.

Incidentally, I ended up chucking the monitor and ignoring the implicit voice of condemnation warning me that without the product, I stand vulnerable to multiple unseen threats. Yeah, well in Jesus Christ, I stand justified and complete before the Father for eternity. I think I’ll rest in the latter over the former.