The Edge Of The Coin!
By Pastor Pat Badstibner
The one accuses of too much grace, the other of a focus on too much law (Though often tainted as a focus on our sinfulness.). One is weary that others will be told they have to do nothing to do, now that they are saved.
The other is worried that an unbalanced focus on our sin will lead to others wallowing in a feeling of unworthiness. So are they both right, or are they both wrong? Is one wrong and the other right? More importantly how does this play out in our daily life?
Is A View Of Our Sinfulness The Problem?
If we focus too much on our sinfulness we often will end up with an unhealthy view of ourselves. We will end up looking through the eyes of what is often referred to as false pride.
This is the Christian who looks at their life and forms a view of themselves based on current perceptions, how they think they are living, whether they are successful at life as they determine it, whether others are pleased with them, happy with them, how their relationships are working, school, work, life in general is easy.
With, this Christian if life is not right, the people in their life seem unhappy with them, things are not working out as they seem their thoughts and perception of themselves turn negative, sometimes even to a very unhealthy focus and negativity. This is the Christian who deems that they are not valuable, or unloveable, or base how they feel about themselves on what others say about them.
These individuals find themselves deeply discouraged about life, relationships and themselves. Does this mean then that it is is wrong to have an awareness of our struggles, our failures, our brokenness?
You’re Not Going To Stop There Are You?
If you just tell people about grace and not tell them they should respond with a heart of gratitude that reveals itself in loving obedience, worship and service to others, they may just live as they please. Don’t we all!
However, the ugly side of an unbalanced focus on this side is the one who over worries about their obedience, their holiness, their performance as Christians, doubting their eternal security, even worse the eternal security of others because in their eyes they or others are being irresponsible, unappreciative, or abusing God’s grace. Their focus becomes more about what they are doing than the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
These are the ones who look at my email signature which says, “In His loving Responsible Grace” and go “YES, that’s right we need to be responsible with God’s grace.”
Not realizing they just called themselves out! They are also the same ones who are hiding behind spiritual cliches.
Cliches like; “I can do all things through Christ.” “The answer is to die to self.” “I’m a new creature.” and others. While the truth behind the cliches are true, the real issue is when we use them to prop us up and oppress others.
Two Views Of The Same Coin!
Believe it or not this is really two sides of the same coin. What is the coin? The coin is a warped view of God’s law.
On the one side we have those who do not realize they are not alone in being failures in living this life, God has chosen us to live. (Colossians 3:12-17). We all are the ones Peter speaks of in, 2 Peter 1:8,9, the unprofitable ones, the ones who have forgotten that their sins are forgiven.
Reminding those who feel this way of God’s law or their failures first is only repeating what they already feel. So they indeed need to be constantly reminded of God’s passionate love for them and of the fact that they have been redeemed.
Both sides are dangerous, BUT!
While both sides are dangerous, there is an interesting dynamic that we see in the gospels. Christ seemed to always have the harshest words for those who thought they were living righteously. Those who thought they had their life so together that they could look at the lives of others and pre-determine their level of righteousness.
This side reveals why those spiritual cliches are ever so dangerous. For it is in this side we find these individuals who are hiding their failures, their brokenness, their cracks behind the veiled words of those cliches. Those, of which I am indeed one of, more than I would care to admit. These are the ones that Galatians 6:3, was written to.
Where the other side needs to be reminded of God’s love, this side might quite possibly find smugness in believing that they are being responsible with God’s love. They indeed are not ungrateful, their dying to self reveals that very fact. Their aggressive attempts at touting how much they have grown, what they are doing for Christ and how they are serving others indeed shows that they are not abusing God’s grace.
Say to them, that it is impossible for those who have accepted God’s saving grace to not abuse, misuse, be ungrateful for and/or to not be irresponsible with and they are more than likely to greet you with a “WHAT YOU TALKING ABOUT!”
These indeed may need to be shown the words of Christ in Matthew 5:48. As they are reminded that they are not all they think they are.
Standing On The Edge!
When we stand on the edge of the coin we see a different view. On the edge of the coin we see a view of God’s law that does not allow us to do the limbo with it.
Instead it points us to a truth that says it is not just all about God’s redeeming us (Grace). Nor is it all about God’s holy law.
Rather, instead it is always 100% God’s law and 100% God’s grace. When one is not taught with the other, errors will always occur.
Law Is a Great Gift!
Yet, when both our taught equally, we see a law that reflects God, reveals His character, shows us how we should be living and then shows us how we are failing to do so.
It is a law that wipes the smugness off the faces, out of the body language and out of the attitudes of those who think that they are indeed able to talk about the failures of others, while suffering amnesia of their own. For it is a law that constantly reminds us we cannot live it, while pointing us constantly to the one who could.
Let’s remember that God’s law is just as loving as God’s grace is. One does not exhibit God’s love more than the other.
Grace Is a Freeing Gift!
The law consistently points us to the grace of God. A grace that reveals we are indeed the apple of God’s eye (Psalms 17:8, Zephaniah 2:8) and as a result no matter how bad we blow it, God is indeed passionately in love with us.
A grace that while teaching us how to live God’s law (Titus 2:11-14) also enables us to come into the shameless nakedness or transparency upon which we were created for. No longer hiding our failures, being ashamed of our brokenness or finding our identity and value in our cracks.
For we now find our identity in being the bride of Christ, not our inability to live this life. A grace that enables us to not only embrace those failures. but to be transparent about them. So that others may know that God is a God who finds deep delight in them.
In the End
The more we realize that it is not about our performance, the easier it becomes to accept the grace that is given (James 4:6) to make the choice to allow the only one who could, can and now is waiting to live it through those he calls His Bride (Philippians 2:13)!
YES! Indeed it may or may not be an error to just tell of God’s redeeming love without helping others embrace their brokenness and failures. Just as it may or may not indeed be an error to be worried about reminding others to live a life a gratitude for the gift of God’s grace. If that worry is coming from a place of being worried that if we do not, others may abuse God’s grace.
As both may reveal a deep error of a proper lack of understanding of God’s law. For God’s law reveals we all are definitely living more often in a way that reveals an un-gratefulness for God’s grace, than a gratefulness.
Praise God, it is indeed not about us (Ezekiel 36:22). For God gives both His law and His grace for His Sake (Isaiah 48:11) . For His sake he is refining us and holding back His anger from us because of our consistent failures (Isaiah 48:9-10), through His grace. Yet, also for His sake he has written His law on our hearts (Ezekiel 36:22-38).
There is only one problem with attempting to stand on the edge of anything for too long. Sooner or later we are going to fall off the edge onto one side or the other.
So let us always pray that God through his Holy Spirit, points us to a truth that gives us a clear understanding of the law that represents God, so that we may neither be ashamed of our brokenness, nor be working to hide it! For, indeed our brokenness reveals His love and grace. Yet, may we not become so comfortable that we indeed become smug about forgetting our failures and remembering the failures of others. That we may come to an understanding of His law that allows us to embrace the brokenness it reveals in us while making us extremely grateful for His grace, while at the same time remembering it is not about us. In order that as the law instructs and grace enables we may indeed reflect His glory.
Photo credit: Nick in exsilio / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA