“Every crook will argue: ‘I like committing crimes. God likes forgiving them. Really the world is admirably arranged.'” – from King Herod in W.H. Auden’s poem, “For the Time Being.”
For as much as I like to talk about grace and all the great things it does on this blog, there is another side to it that has the scent of scandal. At what point does grace have its limits? When do we stop saying, “Well, God forgives me anyway, so I can do what I want.” Does grace not have a limit?
The answer is “No… not really.”
The difference is not grace. Grace remains the same. The difference is you and your view of it.
You see, grace must be received. C.S. Lewis once said, “Grace abuse stems from a confusion of condoning and forgiving: ‘To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.”
I remember a story, about a Catholic convict who, while in prison inexplicably murdered one of his cellmates. The prison where he was kept was on an island, and when they brought him back to shore to stand trial for the murder he committed they asked him why he did what he did. His reply was that he was sick of life in the island prison and was tired of living. One might understand if he took his own life but his response was interesting. He said, “I’m Catholic,” he said, “If I commit suicide I’ll go straight to hell. But if I murder I can come back here to the mainland and confess to a priest before my execution. That way, God will forgive me and I can go to heaven.”
Sounds like a real jilted way of looking at grace but, if you listen to the words being preached about grace and forgiveness, it would seem as though you may have a loophole here.
Let me first say, there are no loopholes with grace. The “loophole” comes when we are unwilling to recognize that we are indeed full of faults. The only way to bypass them is with a relationship with our God. When you have that relationship, He awakens the guilt you have for the things you do. It isn’t awakened by God to crush your spirits but to liberate you from them.
When you come face to face with your flaws, you can fix them. Grace is not a license for immorality… it is a license to live this life in happiness.
I could go on, but really… why? Entire books have been written on how to comprehend grace and forgiveness and whatnot so you can explore your options there (may I suggest this book). I’m limited to just a blog post so before my head explodes I have to give a closing comment. The best way to ensure you do not find your self in one of these “loopholes” is to understand love.
The best reason to be good and not desire to find “loopholes” is to WANT to be good. A person who loves God, will be inclined to please God.
I’ll leave you with the words of Philip Yancey in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” He says at the end of chapter 14, “If we truly grasped the wonder of God’s love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6 and 7 – What can I get away with? – would never even occur to us. We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God’s grace.
In short, love God. Everything else is secondary.