October 24, 2011
There’s No “or else” with Grace
To day I spoke on Romans 6, where Paul says “Shall continue in sin that grace may abound?” At issue is the question (maybe it was an accusation): if grace is so great and free and all you need is faith, well, why don’t we just keep sinning. Won’t grace just grow too?
I think the normal tendency is to answer this question by placing a limit on grace. Yes, God’s forgiveness is free, we seem to think, but if you abuse that forgiveness, they you are in danger of losing it. You have to live up to grace. We can also see this in a common reality: If you become a Christian and put your old life behind you, everyone in church goes “yay!” and they ask you to share your testimony, perhaps in all its gory details. You could have been a murderer or a wife beater or deadbeat dad or a drug addict. None of that matters if you turn to Christ. Churches are actually really good at this part. And that is a good thing.
But, things are quite different if you become a murderer, deadbeat dad or drug addict AFTER you became a Christian. Should such a thing transpire the testimony is not necessarily that welcome. Now we wonder if “he really was a Christian to begin with.” The idea seems to be that once you become a Christian you gotta live up to it or else.
And I agree that being a Christian means living a new and different life. But what is notable about Paul’s rationale in Romans 6 is that we find no hint of this “or else” kind of thinking. He does not say, “We are saved by grace, but we have to live up to that grace or else.” His answer to the notion that, “hey, now we can sin all we want,” is “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you know that when you believed in Jesus you died to sin and that you were raised up with him to walk in a new kind of life? That’s the whole point of this thing! So don’t be inconsistent. Live into it, take hold of it.”
That’s what I call a robust notion of faith and grace. God is so graceful and giving that there are not warnings attached to his gift.