Sometimes we get all tangled up in rules and instructions, something I often call legalism, this cut and dry, one size fits all, cookie cutter kind of faith. I shall spare you the links to some discussions that portray a classic example of why this is so very wrong. Suffice it to say that the reason this flat, two dimensional approach to faith can be such a problem is because we have reading comprehension issues, we have human flaws and defects, and we often try to bend scripture until it says what we want it to say.
The internet can be an interesting place, you can find people trying to bend the precise same bit of scripture into a message on how women must never speak, ever…. or into a passage that is thought to somehow justify homosexuality. The very same words!! This has thrown me for a loop a few times, messed with my head. I had a nice chat with a not so nice man that skillfully used scripture to advocate for both pornography and polygamy. Yeah, I know not a “real Christian,” except he is a leader in a church, he is a popular blogger.
I don’t say these things to make people feel bad or to portray Christians in a negative light, although some people think I do, which than begs the question, do you really think people do not see these things already? Do I reveal great secrets here? Do you believe no-one has been watching? Of course they have. Nearly everyone outside of faith or the church itself has a story to tell about why they no longer believe. And no, these are not all made up stories.
Many people have been victims of the plastic and unspiritual, of assorted forms of legalism, of outright abuse. Few ever claim to find fault in Jesus Christ Himself, but rather in His followers. I hear that, I see it, I own it, too. I am so sorry for those who have suffered from assorted lug nuttery at the hands of those who often profess to be following Jesus Christ. That truly breaks my heart.
I see why some of those TV pastors focus on grace so much, people like Joseph Prince, because it is not the legalism, the rules, that are lacking in the modern world, but rather the grace. The message of the cross, the part where the Holy Spirit shows up to read scripture to you, the love and redemption of Christ. People can be so tightly invested in their external rules and regulations, they miss the entire message. Scripture is not just a flat list of rules on a page, it is alive, the Living Word of God, not a book of instructions like an IKEA furniture manual.
I have to say, while Jesus Christ may have come to fulfill the law, rather than to abolish it, some miss the part where He actually fulfilled the law. He achieved victory. It is finished. For some people to believe that being a Christian is all about reasoning out a set of rules down here, is just depressing. Grace is one of those things that resides within you, that drives your desire to be pleasing, that compels you to not want to grieve or disappoint. You don’t even really need a list of rules, because The Word resides within you, Christ leads you, Christ guides you.
Let me tell you, God has no problem pulling our versions of “the rules” right out from under us, either. We do not always know what we think we know about “the rules.”
I have been so blessed, and it never felt that way at the time, but oh so blessed, because I did not have the church, other people, or scripture. I simply had to lean into Jesus Christ, to trust Him and Him alone, and to have faith that if I messed up, if I got it wrong, the blood of that Lamb is so powerful, it can cover every error, past, present and future. The Word was written on the tablet of my heart….before I even read scripture. What an astounding miracle that is.
Grace frightens some people. People in a state of grace might break the rules! They are rather shameless! What if that crazy woman goes off the deep-end and starts doing things I disapprove of? To which I can only say, why do we insist on believing we are more qualified to lead people than Jesus Christ Himself? Does the Holy Spirit not reside within? Is He not far more powerful and convicting that a list of rules and various human forms of disapproval we can mesh out?
Let me tell you, grace is scary, downright terrifying actually, it demands personal responsibility. I’d actually prefer a list of rules myself, so I can use those rules to justify myself. It’s far more comforting to point to a legalistic, reason based list of instructions and say, “See I’m not doing too bad, I measure up pretty well among the other humans,” rather than to face God Himself, naked and exposed, truthful. Leaning fully into grace leads to things like, “I’ve kept your commandments Lord, I haven’t killed anyone,” and the Lord says, “Yes, but you have had murder in your own heart, you have wanted to kill a few souls, metaphorically at least. Now go show mercy to those who murder.”
Grace, the Blood of the Lamb, provides the safety that allows for the conviction, that leads to the Truth. The truth spoken in love.
When people don’t know grace we tend to hide, just like Adam and Eve did. We fear truth and so we wrap ourselves in deception. Then we actually try to lean into that old and ancient trick of the serpent, did God really say… I could post a good thousand links right now, absolute garbage trying to tell people, did God really say..
If Jesus Christ is within you, you will know what God said. You can ask Him yourself! And if your “truth” is not firmly rooted in love and grace, you will just be talking nonsense, plastic, unspiritual nonsense…..or allowing yourself to be ruled by the voices of others talking nonsense.
Grace does not cause one to say, “now that I have grace, I am free to steal.” Grace causes one to show mercy towards the thief on the cross, to come to understand that we are all the thief on the cross. Give me a set of rules and I’ll show you how to break them, but give me grace and I’ll tell you why I follow Him.
Grace actually does not make us so open minded our brains fall out, nor does it make us so merciful and forgiving we always lay down before those who would persecute us, but it does pave the way for the Lord of all Common Sense to come into our lives with a laundry list specially tailored to each one of us and our circumstances, with His cleansing blood that can redeem us, transform us into who and what He designed us to be.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”