Abraham believed the Lord; and the Lord[ reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
Christians generally teach that we are saved, not by works, but by faith. We believe God when God says to us, “I love you,” and knowing that makes it true for us. Not believing it won’t change the fact that God loves us. But not believing it will mean we live in a state of not knowing and wondering what God thinks of us. So faith does not make it happen – faith makes it real.
The Bible shows us pretty early that it has always been that way. Abram (later named Abraham), the Father of the Jewish nation, has all sorts of roadblocks to accomplishing what God says he will accomplish. After all, he and his wife are too old to have kids of their own and God’s promise that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars seems like a bit of a stretch. But God tells Abram that is exactly what will happen, and Abram believed God. The trust that Abram places in God’s promise is reckoned to him as righteousness. Righteousness is not primarily about what we do to be right – it is what God does within our relationship with God to make things right.
This story is set nearly 4000 years ago. Abram/Abraham lived roughly as long before Jesus as we do after. Abraham and Sarah are the first figures in the Bible to have any direct connections to the history of the Jewish people and their defining moments come, not from what they do, but from the times when they trust what God will do.
A covenant is designed to frame out a trusting relationship. It is less about a list of things being kept like a legal contract. It is more like a series of commitments that two parties make in order to keep themselves connected and able to love one another. In our baptism, God has entered into just such a covenant with us too. Our lives are joined to the promises of God and our values and actions are to be shaped by those promises out of the love that God has for us and that we have for God.
So, when God tells you, “I love you,” believe it. Like Abraham and Sarah, God will reckon it to you as righteousness as well.