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Teaching the opening session of the basic course in Lay Speaking last weekend, I led the class through the major doctrines of the Christian faith presented in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. “Can anyone explain what ‘justification’ means?” I asked. No one volunteered.

That’s OK. Sometimes people don’t like to speak up in the first class, even if they know the answer.

I took a few minutes to explain what an amazing thing justification is — when the Holy God whom we’ve offended, the One knows how thoroughly guilty we are, nonetheless chooses, because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, to treat us just as if we had never sinned against Him at all.

Later, I remembered that Bishop Mike Watson had spoken about “justifying grace” at last year’s South Georgia Confirmation Retreat (in a prerecorded presentation). He talked about his older sister’s protective love, and about how it later helped him understand what God’s justifying grace is all about.

Bishop Watson (image from video)

Bishop Watson (image from video)

[When I was a boy,] sometimes my parents would really get upset me, because I would do things…I knew I shouldn’t do.

When I would have to pay the price for [disobeying my parents], sometimes my sister was my greatest friend…. She would plead for me, and ask that my parents not give me what I really deserved….

I later found out that’s that what Jesus [does for] us everyday before the Father. Jesus loves us, and cares for us, and pleads for us….

I remember Jesus on the cross, being crucified by a cruel and evil world. Jesus, with his arms outstretched, spoke to God the Father for you and for me. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

And with God’s “justifying grace,” we are forgiven! That’s good news to me! Isn’t it good news to you?

Listen to Bishop Watson’s presentation to the confirmands below (from the audio track of his video presentation — 1:40).

Mike Watson became the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference on Sept. 1, 2008.

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