by K.W. Leslie, 18 January

A number of Christians do not know how to do grace.

Yeah, for the most part they’d be legalists. These’d be the folks who don’t realize we’re saved by grace, or it hasn’t sunk in enough. So they still kinda think we stay in God’s good graces by behaving ourselves. We gotta do good works. Have good karma, as non-Christians tend to put it: Don’t break God’s rules and piss him off, or he’ll smite America just like he smote ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, the Babylonian and Persian and Roman Empires, and so forth. There’s a lot of fear in their thinking. Hence very little grace.

But there are non-legalists who don’t do grace either. These’d be the people who don’t realize we’re saved by grace, and think we’re instead saved by faith. And rather than define faith as trust in God, they define it as “the Christian faith,” meaning our orthodox beliefs. So they don’t police people’s works, but our beliefs. If we don’t believe all the right things, we’re going to hell.

And lastly, there’d be the Christians who do realize we’re saved by grace. And they take advantage of it all the time. God forgives all… so they sin, figuring it’s okay because God forgives all. Or they imagine Jesus did away with the Law, and therefore there’s nothing to forgive! Thus they do as they please.

But while they’re happy to apply grace to themselves, do they apply it to others? Nah; not so much. They’re like the dude in Jesus’s Unforgiving Debtor Story—God’s amazing grace applies to them, and maybe to you. But they feel no obligation to pay it forward. If you offend them, you’re dead to them. Or they give you two or three chances. Simon Peter probably considered himself generous for suggesting seven. Mt 18.21 Jesus told him—and us—to think bigger. Way bigger.

Matthew 18.22 KJV
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Unless you’re a really bitter, vengeful person, with very little love in you, 1Co 13.5 NASB you’re gonna lose count. And that’s the point.

Too few Christians recognize grace is a fruit of the Spirit, because God’s grace should affect us so greatly it overflows into the rest of our lives, and we share it with everyone. (This was the point of the Unforgiving Debtor Story, y’know.) We forgive because we were forgiven. We show compassion because God has been compassionate towards us. We love those whom God loves, and he loves everyone. We don’t make exceptions, because neither does he.

But people love to make exceptions, and find loopholes which allow us to limit the grace we show towards people who annoy us. And allow us to loudly denounce Christians who show what we imagine is too much grace. Stop forgiving sinners!—they should suffer the consequences of their actions, like the laws of karma demand. Stop letting people get away with stuff! Why, God doesn’t let people get away with stuff; he’s gonna judge the world and crush the wicked like winegrapes. And they really wanna contribute to all that crushing. They’ve already started.

They’re projecting all their own personal vengefulness upon God, of course. Hey, if following Jesus is too hard, rejigger him till he’s super easy, and stop listening to the Spirit lest he correct you!

Ingrates and evangelism.

I’ve written before about how the excuse ill-behaved Christians are the reason for so much unbelief, isn’t valid. If you love Star Wars, yet so many Star Wars fanboys are entitled little brats, it’s not gonna stop you from loving Star Wars; it’ll only stop you from attending Star Wars conventions. (That, and the fans’ widespread lack of deodorant.) Likewise Jesus: Everybody knows he’s awesome, and everybody knows there are legitimate Christians who really do follow him and exhibit his character, so l onclick="l('2017/06/jerks')">Christian jerks are a pathetic excuse to reject his gospel. The real reason people refuse Jesus is our own selfish depravity.

So do ungracious Christians hinder the gospel? Not really. In fact they actually spread it. Ungracious churches attract ungracious pagans.

Y’see, if you’re a bigoted, judgmental, angry, self-righteous sort of Christian, and you encounter other bigoted, judgmental, angry, self-righteous folks, it’s a lot easier to get ’em to join your cult. They can dive right in, and you can have great fun condemning and damning all the sinners who offend you.

Yeah, it’s both a blessing and curse. (A “blurse,” to use Reddit’s favorite term for it.) Pagan ingrates are getting an introduction to God’s kingdom, getting exposed to the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, getting exposed to Jesus’s teachings. There’s every chance the Spirit will break through to them, convince ’em of the necessity of grace in their lives, make ’em realize their ungracious church is not following Jesus in these ways, and get ’em into a more gracious church. I’ve seen it happen many times; it happened to me! But of course there’s always the chance they’ll quench the Spirit and remain ingrates. I’d like to think the Spirit reforms more of them than not, but some days it surely feels like it’s the other way round.

Of course in an ungracious church, problems and booby-traps abound.

DEFICIENT GOSPEL. The teachers in that church are gonna go out of their way to avoid any scriptures which tell us ingratitude and judgmentalness are unchristlike. Instead they’ll quote plenty of scriptures, out of context of course, which endorses bad behavior, and makes it sound like God feels the very same way.

Hence you’ll get a very askew picture of God’s kingdom; one which drives way too many Christians to despair and apostasy and nontheism. ’Cause if they’re gracious than God is, why follow him?—it’d be better if he followed us, right?

ESCALATION. Humans love to play games of one-upmanship, and this is all too true of judgmental people. It’s not enough for them to disapprove of sin; they feel they gotta disapprove of sinners. It’s not enough to disapprove of sinners; they gotta hate sinners. It’s not enough to hate sinners; they gotta punish sinners. It’s not enough to punish sinners; they gotta exterminate sinners. And so on.

Hence all the ungracious Christians who start with, “Yeah we’re agreed they’re sinners and going to hell,” then ramp it up to, “…and we gotta drive them out of our town, and country, and pass laws against them.” And it’s back to people who think sinners are ruining America, so let’s purge America of sinners.

Hence they get into politics. Lotta ingrates in politics, y’notice.

HYPOCRISY. Christians sin. Duh. We shouldn’t—and when we do, we have Christ Jesus, who forgives all, and forgives everyone. 1Jn 2.1-2 But ungracious Christians do not forgive all, and certainly don’t forgive everyone; and you’re seldom to never gonna trust them with your confessions. ’Cause at best they’re gonna demand some kind of ridiculous, lengthy “restoration” process which guarantees everybody in the church is never wholly gonna trust you again; and at worst you’re disfellowshiped and gotta find another church.

So the sins hide. And to convince everyone you would never, ever commit such sins, you gotta emphasize how greatly you’re against them. Even overemphasize it a bit. A little too much.

INTOLERANCE. Once the Holy Spirit gets through to one of ’em, convinces that person of the necessity of grace, and they start showing compassion to the very people their congregation has damned… very quickly will they get accused of going liberal, get ostracized, and get driven away.

Yeah, there are a lot of ingrates who don’t understand there’s a difference between grace and liberalism. Grace says, “That needn’t get in God’s way, nor mine.” Liberalism says, “Go ahead and do that! You do you.” (Libertarianism does that too; they’re not as dissimilar a view as most people think.) Grace doesn’t judge, but neither does it pretend there’s no such thing as sin, nor that sin has no consequences. If you can’t tell the difference, you clearly don’t understand grace.

And ingrates are, true to form, not gonna understand what gracious Christians are doing, and drive ’em out as if they’re endorsing sin. They feel they have to. They can’t permit even the appearance of evil among them; they have to be “holy.”

They, and the Pharisees who were seriously bugged by Jesus eating with taxmen and sinners, would get along great.

While these misbehaviors might offend you (and me; I grew up around ’em), there are plenty of people who love this kind of thing. People who are outraged that their churches aren’t political enough, or don’t “speak out against sin” enough, or aren’t angry and judgmental and “holy” enough. People who want a church who endorses their ungracious behavior; a pastor who not only never tells them it’s wrong, but even tells them it’s righteous… and conveniently ignores all the scriptures which tell us it’s not.

I’m not thrilled that they attract ungracious pagans, and turn ’em into the same sons of hell they are. But it still presents a useful opportunity for the Holy Spirit. So there’s that.