I have heard all the objections to grace.
I have spoken them myself.
The primary objections are these: It’s too easy! It’s not fair!
I hear them every time I teach or preach about grace. I heard some of them yesterday in response to my post, “Grace Has No ‘If.'” The funny thing is that almost all the folks who get offended by God’s extravagant grace are folks who are already in the church.
We’ve got to keep out the undesirables, you know. At least until they clean themselves up. (Until they’re really sorry.)
Yeah, that sounds like Jesus . . . Jesus who hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus who pronounced forgiveness before it was asked for – before folks even knew he had the authority to forgive. (See the story of the paralyzed guy brought to Jesus by his friends in Mark 2. The dude never speaks, much less asks for forgiveness.)
We want to impose our broken human concept of forgiveness onto God. But God won’t have it. God proclaims and exclaims GRACE through the cross.
You know, the cross where Jesus died for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).
Good Christian folks are scandalized by grace. So we add conditions to God’s gift . . . we add “if’s” to God’s grace.
As if we have that authority!
The biggest if . . . “You’ve got to ask for forgiveness or God won’t give it to you.”
If that’s the case, then all of us are going to hell.
There is no way that we can ask God’s forgiveness for every way we fall short.
For one thing, we sin so often we’re bound to forget some when we get around to asking for forgiveness.
Also, because we’re human we are masters of rationalization. We’ll never ask for forgiveness for some things because we’ll never realize we were wrong to do – or not to do – them.
And then there’s the fact that we are bound to get some things wrong about what’s a sin and what isn’t. Different denominations disagree about the rules . . . if our salvation depends on finding the church that gets everything right, then we’re all in trouble because none does (including mine . . . I’m sure I’ll have some “aha” – and “oh crap” – moments in eternity).
I’m preaching about the Ten Commandments this Sunday. There are wildly different interpretations of what just those ten basic rules mean. Just take a look at “Don’t Murder.” Do I violate that one if I kill in self-defense? In war? What if I’m on the “wrong” side of a war? What about abortion? What about abortion in cases of rape or incest or fetal abnormality? Jesus said if you’re angry at someone you’ve broken that commandment. What if I’m angry for a “good” reason?
And on and on. That’s just one commandment.
If my salvation depends on my asking forgiveness every time I sin, then I darn well better get exactly right what is and isn’t a sin. I never will. Not in this life.
Even if we do our best to ask for forgiveness – and mean it! – for every time for fall short, death will eventually get in the way.
Suppose I’m driving too fast one night and my car slams into a tree. My last word will probably not be a good one. I may even take the Lord’s name in vain.
I don’t believe my salvation is so tenuous that it is threatened by my final, unconfessed exclamation!
My salvation doesn’t depend on me. Thank God.
My salvation depends not on my imperfect faith but on God’s perfect faithfulness.
My salvation depends on God’s grace.
No “If’s” about it.
(Monday I’ll deal with some other objections to grace, including the one that we “Let someone off the hook” when we forgive them unconditionally. But grace is NOT the same as pardon . . . more on that Monday.)
Thank you for continuing to talk and write about this! You realize how difficult a topic this is but it is so vital! Some of us who have attended church most if not all of our lives have not been taught this. If it was, I did not get it. So it is like a new or almost new way of thinking and acting! It makes so much sense but you may need to remind us frequently about GRACE and not just grace!
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! Grace is often even difficult for us to accept for ourselves. I think Martin Luther must be smiling about this one. He went through so much anguish to get to this point himself.
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