Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Shall we continue in sin?

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Italian painter Pannini, 1744, Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins

When I teach and preach the Bible, I am commonly accused of emphasizing grace too much. People tell me, "If you speak about God's grace and freedom and liberty that much, sinnners will think that God will always forgive them, and they won't care about sinning."

I'm in good company. The Apostle Paul (and Jesus) ran into this issue quite a bit. People were always accusing him of preaching "too much grace." Many of his letters address this issue specifically. Romans 6. Galatians 3.

I'm teaching Galatians at my home to a group of University of Miami students and friends. They asked me the same question. And as often happens, I began to articulate a good response in a way that I never had before. The exchange goes something like this:

"Do you mean to tell me that God will forgive me no matter what?"

"That's right, he loves you unconditionally."

"Does that mean that he doesn't care what I do?

"No, he cares deeply what you do. He wants you to give to the poor, to keep the Sabbath holy, to honor your parents, to bear the burdens of your brothers and sisters."

"But what if I don't?"

"He still loves you."

"Whenever you tell me that God loves me unconditionally, it makes me think, 'Why should I do what he says? He'll love me the same whether I do it or not.'"

"In that case, I think I have not told you enough about God's love for you."

"That doesn't make sense. The more I'm convinced that God's love is unconditional, that means I can do whatever I want."

"Yes, you can do whatever you want, but why would you? If you were really convinced of God's love for you . . . you would trust that his commandments are for your good, and you would obey him because you trust that he knows what is best for you."

"What do you mean?"

"When I say that God loves you unconditionally, what I mean is that he is not trying to manipulate you. He is not trying to make you feel bad. He is not trying to punish you. He is not trying to withhold anything good from you. His motives are pure and clean. There is no reason to suspect him or his commandments of coming from alterior motives. He loves you unconditionally. The only reason that would would disobey him is because you think his laws are not good for you. You must think that God doesn't love you. You think you have a better way. You think you must take care of yourself."

"I think I understand."

"If you cheat on your test, you are proving that you do not think God loves you, so, as a pastor . . . no, as a brother in Christ, it is my obligation to tell you with my words, but more importantly with my actions, that God loves you so much more than you think. His love is unconditional, which means he has no alterior motives. When he says, "Be honest" it is because he knows that will bring you the most joy and happiness and freedom and peace. Maybe not in the short-term, but in the long term, God wants the best for you because he loves you so much."


Blogger nickg said...

well done, Willy

and thanks

5:31 AM, May 17, 2006  
Anonymous James said...

When is your book coming out?

5:11 PM, May 17, 2006  

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