Friday, December 29, 2006

I walk the line...or do I?

Somewhere there’s a line between grace and conforming, but I find that line…hazy. I’m not always sure where it is…to say the least. I mean, surely God’s grace is greater than mine, yet I often find myself wanting to offer grace to people that the church around me often just isn’t willing to offer it to.

I have this basic belief that God’s grace is a God sized grace. That, if my grace is this big, then God’s grace must be what…a bazillion times bigger? And, if this is the case, then what in the world does that mean? How big are we talking and exactly what does it cover? I mean, in today’s modern church, we no longer hold that verse over people’s heads that says that, were you to get a divorce and remarry, that you would be committing adultery. But is that right? Is that grace? Or are we conforming? And, if it is grace, and not sin, then what else does grace cover like that? What else can we get covered under grace? And, furthermore, many churches are willing to look at a lot of verses, like the one suggesting that woman should remain totally silent in church, and admit that we’ve read that verse wrong or that it was written to a very specific group of people or even that it was written under the cultural guidelines of a society that no longer relates to ours. So they let it go. But, if we’re willing to offer grace in certain areas, and willing to overlook verses in others, where does it end? Where does grace end?

There’s no doubt that our grace pails in comparison to God’s. And there’s no doubt that we can’t comprehend God’s grace. But, if this is true, then where does the grace end and the conformation begin? Surely it’s further along then we think. ???

Your thoughts?

Comments on "I walk the line...or do I?"

 

Blogger surrendered said ... (4:08 AM) : 

I sign my emails with the word "grace". I copied it from Steve Court. I use it for a couple of reasons. #1, it reminds me that anything "good" that is in me or that characterizes me is only there by God's doing. #2, I hope that it is both an encouragement to others who may be feeling "not good enough for God", as well as a rebuke to those who feel that they are...

grace, true grace, is itself a conformer, I think, if I interpret the word right. strictly scripturally speaking, it is "the righteous requirement of the law" met in us by Christ's sacrifice. it is the holiness of God both imputed and imparted to us and worked out in us by the Holy Spirit, made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ.

sometimes I get caught up thinking that grace is God "relaxing the rules", if you will. but it's not - it's the fulfillment of all the rules in Christ.

grace (and by that I mean the gift of God's Son) is the forgiveness of anyone's sins who comes to the Lord out of a repentant heart.

in the matters that you've mentioned specifically, i always lean heavily on the verse,

"to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."

i probably didn't answer your questions, but maybe i gave some extra food for thought.

grace,
Phil :)

p.s. hope you had a great Christmas.

 

Blogger Larry said ... (4:07 PM) : 

I have always thought that we should live by this motto in the church "Belong, believe, behave." I think our gracelessness as Christians often makes unbelievers feel as if they have no chance to belong. We can, however, share our belief in an unapolgetic way. I also think that theology is ever evolving. It does not mean that scripture is something that we can treat as something that we can negotiate. Scripture means what it means. I think what grace does is help us to interpret scripture in the correct exegesis for our day. Much of scripture was written in a culture of legalism and before the sacrifice of Christ. This throws a light on scripture that allows us to see the world maybe as God does. In that way, scripture takes on a whole new meaning, because of grace. It is giving, loving and teaching. It also shows us how to belong to God, through repentance and faith as Phil has said. In repentance we see how grace works. It is lifting and not condemning. It shows boundaries of behavior and shows how life has no limits with God.

I know I have rambled here, but I am grateful that I serve a God who is graceful and not just legal. He is the one who teaches us balance between mercy and justice.

 

Blogger Cari said ... (5:54 PM) : 

I think the whole question is the answer. We can't possibly understand sin in quite the way God does, and so grace is there to cover us. I think of it kind of like a Holy insurance policy. You know, not paid out ahead of time, but given in full measure when we need it. It gets murky when we start using it as an umbrella to intentionally walk out into the rain. As far as "which sins are applicable" I think they all are, or else our Bible wouldn't be written by murderers and adulterers and tax collectors. I don't get the conformity part. I guess it's an attitude of how view grace. When we went to...Grace...there was this constant battle between the Baptist kids and the AG kids about whether salvation could be lost, and if so, when, and did Baptist kids just get saved so that they could do whatever they want and still be safe. Remember that? Coach Fellenstien's Bible Class was my debate class. What I wouldn't give to be there again sometimes!!

 

Blogger shaun said ... (9:41 PM) : 

I guess I'm a little confused over what you intend to mean by grace in your post. I'm curious as to how grace relates to interpretation of the scriptures but I want to understand what you mean so I can interact with what you are actually saying (not just what I think you might be saying).

Hope you guys had a restful time in Egypt.

 

Blogger Tim said ... (11:50 PM) : 

Hhmmmm…not sure what I could mean by “grace” except…grace.

As far as how it relates to scripture, I think I’m getting at the dreaded “T” word. “T” for tolerance. Am I showing grace when I show tolerance, or am I conforming to the pattern of this world? Where is the line? When do I cross over from grace to conformation? I mean, is conforming just “doing the things that they do”, or does it also mean “letting them get away with it” as well?

 

Blogger shaun said ... (4:50 PM) : 

That's helpful (not so much theh part where you defined the word by repeating it...).
It sounded like you were overlapping tolerance and grace. I don't think they are the same thing, even if there are times when an appropriate tolerance requires grace. If by grace you mean something more like what Phil mentioned (something like the faithfulness of Christ applied to those who don't, by their own record deserve, it), then conforming to non-biblical patterns for has no place in our response to God's grace. Rather, when we really get a hold of how amazing Jesus' act on our behalf is, and how painfully short we are of God's righteous requirements, then our desire will be to conform more and more to the God's requirements and less and less to the image of our own heart's rebellion against his commands. Certainly we have to do the work to understand his commands, but conforming to a nonbiblical pattern for life is the opposite of a right response to grace. I think we tend to define a gracious response to people based on our own cultural sensibilities (something like an undefined tolerance), but I tend to think that God has a right to define what grace means. All that said, I think that if we actually do get a picture of God's faithfullness in Christ then the result will be that we will be far less judgmental and far more thoughtful in our interactions with people who aren't like us. At the same time we will do that as fellow sinners standing in need of Jesus and not as high handed moralist, though still upholding God's good commands as, well, good commands.
As for "letting them get away with it.." are you talking about believers living in sin or unbelievers? I think that 1 Cor. 5:12 would give us a different tack for each...

 

Blogger Larry said ... (2:31 AM) : 

interesting the differentiation being made between tolerance and grace. are people suggesting that we hold non-believers to the same standard by which we are set apart to live?

 

Blogger shaun said ... (2:37 PM) : 

As to differentiating between grace and tolerance...(only speaking for me) I'm understanding grace as a theological term (defined in my last comment more or less) and tolerance as a term relating more to interpersonal relationships (putting up with each other's differences). I see the two things as being pretty different, even if related. Maybe I'm just picking at knits(?).
As to the standards issue. I'm saying two things. One is that the scriptures only demonstrate one standard for all people to submit to. Believers are learning to lean toward it and unbelievers are refusing it. At the same time those of us who profess Christ have no business judging those outside of the faith (1 Corinthians 5:12). Rather we have the responsibility to set an example of a life lived in response to God's great grace (understood in the theological sense). This would necessarily include love, mercy, justice, patience with those who struggle, willingness to weep with sinners rather than accost them, (etc.), and all the while holding up God's one standard of living (as given in the scriptures) as the only truly good life. I don't know if that is what other people are saying, but that is what this guy is saying.

 

Blogger Will said ... (11:19 AM) : 

Interesting stuff. Its funny how you think you understand something until you try to write it down! That's how I feel anyway.

I'm summarising my thoughts on this mostly to help me get them clear in my own head but I hope they may be useful too.

Like Phil said at the begining - Grace is only really relevant to believers with a repentant heart right? Grace is the way that God accepts us as worthy despite our sins because of Jesus.

But that's different to tolerance. I think we need to be careful about being tolerant. It doesnt sound nice. We need to love people not just be tolerant of them. I guess its ok to be tolerant of their sins because we love them - that sounds ok.

So when it comes to people remarrying for example - We need to love them - thats a given. But then if they're repentant grace comes into action. But to be repentant you've got to accept you've sinned.

I think more difficult than grace is working out what we believe is sin and what isn't.

 

Blogger Trent said ... (2:22 PM) : 

Tim,

I don't think you can understand grace without giving some thought to judgement.

It seems to me that it is gracious to withhold judgement. This is important because scripture is pretty clear about my responsibilities regarding judging my fellow man. Basically, it is not my job to judge.

It is my job to recognize and stear clear of sin. It is my job to love others. It is my job to work out my salvation.

It is this very idea that gnaws at me when I try to decide what Salvation is (see schmuckfactor post, surrender). If one experiences salvation does it result in any change. I am trying to determine what change it will result in in other people's lives, but I am quite concerned about the changes it should be working in mine.

 

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