The answer is yes…but….
I am a student of grace and a recipient of abundant, generous, and scandalous grace. I believe grace to be the most critical and important component of the Christian faith. It seems to me that without grace we would be doomed. Without grace, there would be no hope.
Over the years I have watched and observed many leaders go through failure, sin, brokenness, and lostness. I am talking about sin that reveals the fundamental weakness in our humanness. The issues of bad judgment, yielding to temptation, submitting to an addiction, gossip, pride, arrogance, abuse of power, lying, dictatorship, harsh language, judging people, anger, ignoring people, or other behavioral sins that reveal our weaknesses.
What I have concluded is that we believe in the “yes-but” concept of grace. Someone falls or fails, and the question or subconscious thought arises, “should we give them grace?” and the answer starts with “Yes….but.” It is conditional grace. A grace-filled with exceptions.
Yes, but we can’t just “let it go.” Yes, but we can’t let him get by “Scott-free.”
We talk a good talk about grace but in the end, we really don’t know how to live out our belief in grace. We don’t know how to reconcile seemingly competing values: obedience vs. grace, holiness vs. sinfulness. While there are Scriptures that seem to tell us to focus on obedience as the key to spiritual wellness, we need to remember the Scriptures that tell us that our righteousness and our obedience are not ours, it is Christs’. We have imputed righteousness. Christ’s righteousness is imputed or injected into us, Christ’s obedience is counted as ours, Christ’s holiness is our holiness.
We claim to be advocates of grace on the one hand but then turn around and dish out judgment, unforgiveness, and alienation on the other. We kick people while they’re down and shoot our wounded.
We who express our belief in grace are at the same time annihilators of grace! We tear grace to shreds with our schizophrenic lifestyle and attitude toward others.
One moment we’re full of compassion, and the other we’re being a jerk. One moment we have understanding and grace toward someone, and the next moment we’re judging them. One moment we are filled with humility, the next moment we are brimming with pride. One moment we’re generous, the next we’re mean. Today we might be happy, joyful, and positive, tomorrow we might be depressed, unhappy, and negative.
Dear friend and fellow advocate of grace I need to tell you this: you might not be as good as you think, forgiving as you think, loving as you think, humble as you think, spotless as you think, or as spiritually put together as you think.
We are ALL to some degree hypocrites, otherwise known as Pharisees. (see my book, Thank God I’m not a Pharisee….or am I? johnelzinga.com/products). Hypocrites in the sense of pointing out how good we are as opposed to how bad they are (whoever they are).
One thing I know, if every sin canceled out something good we did, we’d have no hope. Equally, we can’t stay one step ahead of our sin with just one more good thing, one more good deed, or one more good work. Sin is far too pervasive.
When we see the sin in others, when their flaws and imperfections and sins are exposed rather than gasp with shock, we should identify with them. Rather than point a finger at them we should look at the three fingers pointed back at us. We are all culprits, deceivers, and deceived. We all to some degree participate in the very sins we condemn in others. Just read Matthew 5 where Jesus turned everything upside-down.
To those who were advocates of obedience, holiness, and righteousness and felt pretty good about themselves (Pharisees) Jesus made it crystal clear that their sin is just as bad as others.
“How wonderful that you haven’t committed adultery, but I bet you’ve lusted.
How great that you haven’t murdered anyone, but I bet you’ve been angry with someone. How special that you are so generous and are such a giver, but it doesn’t count when you have a broken relationship.”
“All those oaths you’ve made (commitments) are worthless if you don’t follow through.
And you think you’re loving? Great! Don’t just love those who are naturally connected to you or those who do good to you, love those you don’t like, even those who attack you.” (my own very loose paraphrase)
Go ahead, just try to be good on these terms. Try to keep these laws perfectly.
When we look at It this way, we have no choice but to realize that we are no better than anyone else.
To believe in grace we must first know we need grace. We need to understand that our goodness isn’t good enough. We need to be able to see how much we need grace, maybe, just maybe then we will be able to grasp the depth and width and wonder of God’s amazing grace.
I ask you; do you really believe in grace?
Grasp it, receive it, give it.