Grace, Sin, and the Kingdom

I read a blog post by Stephan over at Sacred Tension, please go over and read the full article here…

I read a blog post by Stephan over at Sacred Tension, please go over and read the full article here I won’t try to to paraphrase what he is saying because the topic of grace and sin is one that it so polarizing that the nuances of what someone says about them are often lost. So please go read the article before reading further.

Hmm this is a tough one. Can God’s ever pursuing love reach anyone? Absolutely. But Paul also admonishes us to not use grace as a license to keep on sinning. I think when we look at the entire flow of scripture, we see that grace is not a proverbial “get out of jail free card.” The term grace itself is sometimes unhelpful in the English language because we often associate it with looking past an evil or overlooking it. That’s why I have tried to personally re-frame things, when thinking about God’s pursuit of us, in the terms of love instead of grace. Love, it seems to me, is more clear in the English language to communicate wanting the best for another.

Love, does not, necessarily look past all wrongs. In fact love actively works in oppositions to wrongs. It works to right wrongs. In my understanding of God’s kingdom being worked out, the main action taking place is the righting of wrongs through love.

When we look at accounts of “judgment day” in scripture there is something interesting going on. In the account of the sheep and goats, one of Jesus’ most descriptive accounts of judgement, we hear the discussion centering around what people did not what they believed. The goats are found saying “when Lord?” it’s not that they failed to acknowledge Jesus as Lord that causes Jesus to send them away. No, instead it is that their actions were not congruent with the kingdom and what Jesus wants people doing. As Keith Green poetically pointed out in his musical version of the Sheep and Goats, “The only difference between the sheep and goats, according to the Scriptures, is what they did and didn’t do.”

This may be startling to some. Especially those, like me, that have heard “grace alone” all of their lives. I always wonder why I don’t hear more teaching out of books like James. I love James. He speaks in such plain language about the inter-working of faith and deeds, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

It seems to me that perhaps some of the hesitation to address the fact that what we do is intertwined with us being included in the Kingdom of God comes from the fact that the responsibility that it introduces is pointed squarely at ourselves. If we accept the fact that our actions matter, we can no longer point the finger at others, who, have not given the mental ascent needed to be bestowed with God’s grace. No, instead we must look inward at our own actions to see if they line up with what God’s kingdom is about. This can be, as I know from personal experience, an uncomfortable task.

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September 27, 2014 @ 2:05 am Trackback URL

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  • Hey! Thanks for linking to my blog. I am curious to know how these thoughts tie directly to what I was discussing in my post, which could be summed up as such: we cannot trust even our good actions to be good., and while we must forever strive to be right (as a sign that we do indeed love Jesus), our rightness in word or deed is not what saves us. The history of the church is filled with great men and women of God doing horrible things – horrible things they believed to be right. If it is our rightness in word and deed that saves us, our own great luminaries of the faith do not receive salvation. Why do we assume that, if faith without works is dead, then our works must be perfect? They won’t be.

    What I am suggesting is that, in the case of homosexuality, neither the liberal nor traditional positions are without horrifying consequence if I am wrong. All I can therefore do is trust that Christ is larger than my brain. What I am not suggesting is to simply say, “well, I don’t know, God will catch me anyway.” I have beliefs and I uphold those beliefs. I simply accept the grave consequences if *any* of us are wrong, and trust that if God is truly God he is larger than our well intentioned, though serious, faults.

    • Matt Stenson says:

      Sorry I didn’t approve this comment sooner, it got lost among spam somehow. I would agree with you that we can never be sure if we are right. Depending on how deep you want to go, can we ever be sure of anything, right? My critique then, (and based on your comment / clarification here, it probably isn’t even a critique) is that I believe being part of the kingdom does indeed have to do with what we do in this life. Now, that being said, I do not take a traditional view of how this works out in real life. I believe what matters most is the trajectory of our lives, whether we are moving closer or further away from Jesus, not whether we followed a certain set of rules or did or didn’t do certain things within our lifetimes.

      A pretty good explanation of this idea is the idea of bounded vs centered sets. Here’s a quick video that explains that concept if you haven’t run across it before.

      Thanks for writing over here and thanks for authoring your original article. I was very thought provoking for me.