Friday, January 14, 2011
Grace givers, grace killers
In short, a grace killer is one who inflicts his personal decisions onto other people, creating a long list of does and don'ts and measuring spirituality by the level of compliance. We are not talking about black and white biblical directives. Those are non-negotiable. What we are talking about are things of conscience. For example, having grown up in legalistic churches, it was pounded into me that to go to movies, play cards, dance, drink alcohol, etc, brought great displeasure to God and were, in essence, sinful. No further discussion needed. The focus was on what not to do. I John 1:9 ("If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness") hung like a ready bandaid around our necks for we were told that we would need to confess our sure-to-happen transgressions 24/7.
On the other hand, one who lives by grace understands Romans 6. There is nothing that justified us to the Father other than grace. We did not contribute one iota to the process. We were as dead as the proverbial doorknob. Nor can we add to the grace that was extended to us, earning brownie points to gain higher spiritual marks. We have been freed from the bondage of the sin master. We have been given the ability to concentrate on living a life not focused on "my sin, my shame, my failure," but rather on "His forgiveness, His grace, His life." That makes all the difference in the world. Our faces transform from sad and disparaging "no" faces to glowing and cheerful "yes" faces.
Swindol offers this analogy. There is a long and twisting mountain road with dangerous curves and sheer dropoffs. The state has two options. They could build emergency clinics at the bottom of the cliffs to tend to those who fail to negotiate the curves. Or, they could place warning signs on the road to instruct the motorists to slow down and use caution. Swindol points out that while the clinic at the bottom of the cliff is useful at times, it would have been better to avoid going over the edge in the first place. He equates the clinic to I John 1:9, a sometimes necessary restorative option but one that can, for the most part, be reserved for emergency situations. But, the signs along the road are more like Romans 6. Isn't it better to live positively in righteousness than to constantly call for first aid from the clinic?
This is not to imply that confessing our sins and being restored and forgiven is not important. Indeed it is. But we must begin to realize that God has saved us so that sin no longer is master (Romans 6:13-14). Waking up in the morning to realize that we are empowered by His grace to live righteously is far better than grimly assuming that we are destined to blow it.
It's all about grace. Grace that we have been given and the grace that we extend to others to live righteously and according to conscience.