In an article called Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk About Sin?, Scot McKnight shares a rather disturbing story. I say disturbing because it sounds far too familiar…
One day after I spoke at a church, a college student approached me and began telling me about her roommate, and I’m guessing you know someone like both of these young women. First, she told me her roommate had slept with more than one guy that semester; that her roommate got drunk most Saturday nights; that her roommate was very active in a Bible study; and that she was also in a worship band.
I asked, “Does your roommate consider herself a Christian?” The young woman responded: “Of course she’s a Christian.”
I was perhaps more bothered by that last response than by the actions of the roommate. For this person talking to me, the issue wasn’t Christian-or-not, but why I would even ask such a question.
Her final words to me were, “God forgives, you know.” Her tone wasn’t a tone of gratitude for God’s grace but presumption of God’s grace. I was troubled as much by her attitude as I am by what I see as a trend among our culture: Sin is falling into grace and disappearing from our concerns.
There you have it: When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life. So, let’s look at what sin is, where sin wants to take us and what sin does to us.
I have a good friend whose wife divorced him a few years ago. I’ll never forget the story of her telling him she wanted the divorce. After she broke the news to him, he asked her what she thought God would think of her actions. Her response: “I think he’ll forgive me.”
The college student’s tone was a presumption of God’s grace, my friend’s ex-wife presumed on God’s grace, and in Romans we read a harsh correction against such a presumptuous, ungrateful attitude.
Or do you presume onthe riches of his kindness andforbearance andpatience,not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4
Wow, talk about painful! Here’s how the Message phrases it…
Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. – Romans 2:4, Message
But before we cast the first stone, let’s face it, we’ve all—at one time or another—sinned with the assumption that God was going to forgive us. Maybe it wasn’t a divorce, but I think we’re all guilty here. I’ve done it. I knew that my actions were sinful and yet I just assumed God would forgive me for my actions. I look back at these actions with deep regret and embarrassment, but they are on my long list of failures.
That verse in Romans serves as a good reminder that God’s mercy isn’t meant to give me a license to sin against Him. It would be like me cheating on Connie and then, if she forgave me, viewing that as a free pass to keep on cheating on her. “She’ll forgive me.” In the Old Testament, God often compares His relationship with Israel to a marriage. In Ephesians 5, we’re told that Christ is the Groom and the Church is the bride. Thus, willfully sinning against God is no worse than repeatedly cheating on a spouse; in fact I’d say it’s actually far worse. God’s grace is not a free pass for rebellion.
No, God’s kindness is meant to lead me to repentance. Instead of literally destroying us for our rebellion, God gives us yet another chance; not to keep on sinning, but to repent! Repentance is about turning away from one thing, and moving towards something else. God lavishes his rich, undeserved grace on us so that we may turn away from our sins and run to Him.