Truth that Matters: The Dilemma of Grace

How does God make us right with him? Let’s return to the insurance company and ask a few questions: First, was it unjust in dismissing me as a client? No. I may find its decision distasteful, unenjoyable, even disheartening, but I cannot call it unfair. It only did what it said it would do.

So did our Father. He told Adam, “If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die” (Gen. 2:17). No fine print. No hidden agenda. No loophole or technicality. God has not played games with us. He has been fair. Since Eden, the wages of sin have been death (Rom. 6:23).

Just as reckless driving has its consequences, so does reckless living. Just as I have no defense before the insurance company, I have no defense before God. My record accuses me. My past convicts me.

Now, suppose the founder and CEO of the insurance company chose to have mercy upon me. Suppose, for some reason, he wanted to keep me as a client. What can he do? Can’t he just close his eyes and pretend I made no mistakes? Why doesn’t he take my driving record and tear it up? Two reasons.

First, the integrity of the company would be compromised. He would have to relax the standards of the organization, something he could not and should not do. The ideals of the organization are too valuable to be abandoned. The company cannot abandon its precepts and still maintain integrity.

Second, the mistakes of the driver would be encouraged. If there is no price for my mistakes, why should I drive carefully? If the president will dismiss my errors, then what’s to keep me from driving however I want? If he is willing to ignore any blunders, then blunder on!

Is that the aim of the president? Is that the goal of his mercy? Lowered standards and poor driving? No. The president is faced with this dilemma. How can I be merciful and fair at the same time? How can I offer grace without endorsing mistakes?

Or, put in biblical terms, how can God punish the sin and love the sinner? Paul has made it clear, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness” (Rom. 1:18 NIV). Is God going to lower his standard so we can be forgiven? Is God going to look away and pretend I’ve never sinned? Would we want a God who altered the rules and made exceptions? No. We want a God who “does not change like…shifting shadows” (James 1:17) and who “judges all people in the same way” (Rom. 2:11).

Besides, to ignore my sin is to endorse my sin. If my sin has no price, then sin on! If my sin brings no pain, then sin on! In fact, “We should do evil so that good will come” (Rom. 3:8). Is this the aim of God? To compromise his holiness and enable our evil?
Of course not. Then what is he to do? How can he be just and love the sinner? How can he be loving and punish the sin? How can he satisfy his standard and forgive my mistakes? Is there any way God could honor the integrity of heaven without turning his back on me?

Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1996), 72–74.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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