For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2.10)
Religion is a deadly trap. Religious people rely on their adherence to some legal code to obtain justification or righteousness. Anyone who truly considers their life for very long realizes the futility in this arrangement. There may be no better display of the strict requirements of the living by a legal code than the Olympics. Even the New York Times uses religious language to describe it ("Redemption, But not for Jacobellis" - 2/17/10).
Consider Lyndsey Jacobellis. Lyndsey has spent the last 4 years of her life working for her own redemption. In the Torino Olympics in 2006 she lost the gold medal in the snowboard cross; falling down after a premature celebration with some "method air" on the last jump of the race. It was the most bitter silver medal of the 2006 Winter Games. Yesterday, the rigid legal code of the Olympics erased that 4 year pursuit with one fall. The favorite Jacobellis will not visit the podium in Vancouver. One sin disqualified her.
It is a bitter lesson for any of us tempted to find justification (or redemption) by adherence to any code be it environmentalism, corporate-ladder-climbing-ism, I'm-a-good-parent-ism or religion of any form. We cannot justify ourselves. Everyone of us has fallen down in the semis of the snowboard cross or in the skating short program and there will be a day where we fall again. We need something more. If God doesn't provide our righteousnes (or if we don't accept what He provides), we are forever cursed. The Good News is... He has!
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3.21–25)May Lyndsey find redemption and justification not through her own efforts but in the efforts and perfect righteousness of the Savior.