15 November 2022


As I indicated in my article on grace, a number of Christians aren’t familiar with the concept, and think it’s a mystery or something indefinable. God grants us his unmerited favor; they know not how.

They don’t define grace by God’s attitude towards us. Largely because they don’t share this attitude, and don’t think we have to duplicate it towards others. God’s instructions about generosity, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, favor, and kindness haven’t sunk in. God is love, but we don’t love; at least, not without conditions.

So they’re graceless. They’re ingrates—a word usually defined as someone who’s not grateful, but comes from the Latin ingratus/“no grace.” They don’t do grace. They love friends and family… but big deal; everybody does that.

Matthew 5.46-47 GNT
46 “Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!”

The love of God doesn’t project outside their social circle, into the world, into dark places where we’re meant to be light. We don’t represent Jesus to our lost and hurting society. We don’t spread grace. We don’t produce fruit.

’Cause grace is a fruit of the Spirit. True, it’s not one of the fruits Paul listed in Galatians. Doesn’t need to be included in his list. It should be fairly obvious this is a trait Christians oughta have if we have the Holy Spirit within, and are following him, and his godly attitudes and characteristics are overflowing into our lives. You oughta see grace in Christians. If you don’t, they might have the Spirit in them, but they don’t know him.

Grace is the whole point of Jesus’s Unforgiving Debtor Story. We were forgiven; we oughta forgive as well. God has been compassionate towards us; we oughta show compassion. God loves everybody; so should we. God makes no exceptions; neither should we.

Christians can be easily identified because we love one another—as we should. But we should likewise be identified because we love everyone. Because we’re gracious to everyone. Because we act like Jesus in that regard.

But as you probably notice, we don’t. We’d rather not.

Easier to be ungracious.

In my article on grace, I touched on people who don’t realize we’re saved by God’s grace, and think we’re saved via other routes, like orthodoxy and baptism and good works. Stands to reason they’d be blind to all the grace in Christianity, and in God himself: The way they practice their religion is to stay in God’s good graces by behaving themselves. By doing good works. By having good karma, as non-Christians would put it: Don’t piss God off!

That’s why you see so much agitation among Christian nationalists. You wanna see the best examples of Christians who don’t do grace, you look at them: They think the only reason the United States is prosperous and comfortable (for them, anyway) is because they’re following God’s rules. They’re terrified that if America sins any more than it already does, God’s gonna smite us like he smote ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, the Babylonian and Persian and Roman and Holy Roman Empires, and so forth. That’s why they’re so dead-set on taking it over, and enforcing “God’s law,” which conveniently matches all the things they don’t like… including lots of sexism and racism. It is by definition legalist; it’s all about rules. And their love is limited to those who follow the rules. Everybody else, they don’t love. Even hate.

Not that they don’t do grace at all; y’notice they’re entirely ready to forgive and dismiss the sins of their politicians. They’re always ready to forgive themselves. God’s amazing grace applies to them. And sometimes to you, if they like you enough. But they feel no obligation to pay it forward. If you offend them, you’re dead to them.

Or they might 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 18.21-23 GNT
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23A because the Kingdom of heaven is like this.”

Unless you’re a really bitter, vengeful person, with very little love in you, 1Co 13.5 NASB you’re gonna lose count of those 490 acts of forgiveness. And that’s Jesus’s point.

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 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.