Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hardheaded Grace

We live in an age of sloppy, sentimental grace. This is true both on a secular and Christian level. The idea is if we'll just be nice and accept each other, we will all get along and all our problems will vanish. There is even frequently an implication that under these conditions we will all automatically become better people and follow God. But it does not really work out that way. There is then a tendency to react and to compensate by advocating strict legalism. To see the goal as strictly observing the rules, so everyone who gets out of line must be immediately condemned. Is there another option?

The place we need to begin with is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), and grace is God acting to save us in spite of that (Romans 5:6-8; 1 Peter 2:24,25; 1 Timothy 1:15). Further, even after we are saved we are still imperfect people (Philippians 3:12-14; 1 John 1:8-10; Galatians 5:17), and not all those who claim to be saved are saved (Matthew 7:21-23; 13:36-43; 1 John 2:19). Also, we have an enemy that is out to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8,9; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Therefore, the idea that we can be safe and comfortable and not have to face any challenges, individually or corporately, is not realistic. We are sinful people living in a sinful world, and we can expect conflict.

Because of this we need grace not less, but more. But it cannot be a vague emotional type of grace, but hardheaded grace that faces reality. It must be a grace that reaches out to help and correct those who need help and correction. But it must do so with the realization of the imperfections of the people we are dealing with. It must be hardheaded but not hardhearted, compassionate but not naive. This is hard, but it reflects what God commands in Scripture (Ephesians 4:15; Galatians 6:1; Jude 22,23; Hebrews 12:12,13). It is much easier just to write people off or accept them no matter how they behave. But we are called to represent the God who sent His Son to save those who were hostile to Him (Romans 5:10), but would not just wink at sin, requiring it be paid for (Romans 3:24-26). We need to reflect that kind of grace.

Even for Christians, God is not willing to just let down the standard to accommodate our failings. After we are saved He calls us to live for Him (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11,12; Romans 12:1,2) and provides us with the power to do so (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:28,29). Nonetheless, He deals with us based on our position in His grace (Romans 8:15; 5:1,2; 14:4). We need to behave the same way, not simply excusing sin but doing everything we can to bring people back to the right path.

1 comment:

  1. When we lower our standards it just allows what is not true and helpful to become "acceptable." Good word.