A few weeks ago, someone emailed me a question about you.
That’s right, it was about you. Readers, folks who comment, people who peruse the halls of Stuff Christians Like. And it was nice to have a question that wasn’t about me. I get those sometimes. A person once asked me, “Do you have a theologian read what you write on your site before you post it?” I want to be honest, with over half a million words on the site, that would be one generous theologian. So I replied with, “Yes, I have a small theologian who lives in a closet under the stairs. He eats cracklin’ oat bran exclusively and reads everything I write.” OK, I didn’t respond that way. I told him I could see doing that with some Serious Wednesday posts. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone had a question about you. What was it? Here is an excerpt of what they asked:
“Have you ever noticed that frequently your comment section can go a little too far with the whole “Christians are covered by grace” thing? I’ve noticed that quite a few SCL commenters seem to see grace as a license to sin.”
Essentially the question they were asking is simple, “Do you feel like some people take grace too far?” I wrote them back and let them know I would address their really well written email on the site.
Here’s what I think:
I believe we risk a great danger when we try to say that people “go a little too far with the whole ‘Christians are covered by grace’ thing.” And the danger is simply that we downsize grace.
We establish a limit to grace and God’s love. We start to draw boundary lines on grace and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of thing happen.
There was a guy in the Bible who was the worst. He was such a failure. He lied once and got an entire village murdered as a result. A priest and his family were killed because of his lies. He committed adultery. He cheated. He trusted in his own strength instead of the Lord’s. And when he did, when he failed, thousands and thousands of people died as a result. His family suffered from incest and murder and his hands were so covered with wrongfully shed blood that eventually God wouldn’t let him do something really important.
Now imagine if that person was a commenter on Stuff Christians Like. Imagine if they confessed to homicide and adultery and a laundry list of other sins. I mean there have been some crazy comments on this site, but no one has ever said, “I saw this girl online and thought she was really hot, so I slept with her, got her pregnant and then arranged on craigslist for her husband to be killed.” But this guy, the guy in the Bible, he could have left that comment. And if he did, would you or me or the writer of that email instantly think, “He didn’t take grace too far?” No, we’d be horrified. We’d be terrified.
So how is he referred to in the Bible? Here is what God says about him:
“I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart,”
What? Are you kidding God? David, the murderer? The adulterer? That can’t be right.
Surely David himself knows what a mess he’s made. Aren’t we all our worst critics? David knows that there is blood on his hands. How does he describe himself in Psalm 26?
“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.”
No. No. No. David hasn’t led a blameless life. He hasn’t trusted in the Lord without wavering. He ran away and got people killed by trying to cover up his tracks when he was afraid. How can David say these things? How can God say these things?
Because grace is scandalous.
Grace does not make sense to our tiny human brains. We can’t control it. We can’t draw boundaries and borders on it. And when we try I think it breaks God’s heart.
I think we insult the cross when we act as if we can “out sin” it.
I think we wound our father when we think we can “out filth” his love.
I think we hurt our Christ when we believe that we have found the end of his grace.
I know, I know, I know that it is possible to mistreat the Lord. To blasphemy his name with our actions and our attitudes. David certainly did and he paid the consequences. I don’t think we get discipline or grace. I think we get both. I think discipline is a by product of grace and in my own life I have received large amounts of it.
But above that, I think God understood the grand risk when he offered us grace. A book called “True Faced” called it the New Testament Gamble. I think God knew the risk that we’d misunderstand grace and try to take advantage of it. I think he knew we’d try to find the limits of it with our sinfulness. Which is why he made it limitless, which is why he made grace infinite and never ending.
I don’t know what you’ve done. I don’t know your life or the bumps or bruises. Maybe you actually have murdered more people than David. I don’t know. But I do know, as many readers pointed out on this post, we serve a God who accepts our repentance and confession. We serve a God who when offered a chance to reveal himself to Moses, chose one thing to show, the most important thing, his goodness.
We serve a God who “rises to show us compassion.”
A God who delights in you.
A God who sent his son to the cross not to show the end of his grace, but rather the beginning.