Getting My Way
One of the central components of the Christian faith is the doctrine of sin. We believe God acted on our behalf because there was a spiritual need for His intervention. In other words, our sin creates a need for redemption.
We are sinners. We need a Savior. God acted on our behalf.
The Bible speaks frequently of sin. As a matter of fact, there are over 20 different words utilized in the original languages to portray the various dimensions of sin. There is no way for me to unpack the depth of the subject of sin in a single blog post. However, I do want to mention a couple of key ideas that help define sin and why grace is so radical in light of sin’s nature.
One of the chief images of sin most often employed in the NT is the idea of “missing the mark.” Paul conveys it as “falling short” of God’s standard (Rom 3:23). In other words, the holy nature of God requires perfection and simply put: we are not perfect. We “fall short” of God’s mandate. We are incapable of meeting God’s requirement. That’s why the belief that Jesus was sinless is so important. He did what we cannot do: fulfill God’s requirement of perfection.
Another common depiction of sin in the Bible relates to our conscious willingness to choose our path over God’s. In other words, we know what is right and what is wrong and we choose wrong. We willfully choose disobedience. Think Eve in the Garden of Eden. God says, “Do not eat from this tree.” Eve says, “Thanks for the free fruit.” She knew God’s direct command and she chose the opposite. She got her way. That’s what sin is: getting my way – choosing my path over God’s.
Put these two images together and you can see why it is difficult for us to wrap our minds around God’s radical grace.
When we sin, we miss God’s mark by choosing what is wrong. We choose our path over God’s. And guess what? God allows it to happen. God did not stop Adam & Eve. He did not set up a “pre-sin” intervention. He simply allowed it to happen. It is an essential part of the story. I would go so far as to say He KNEW it would happen and did nothing to prevent it. Instead of stopping the sin, He put a plan of redemption in place.
How does this truth relate to us in 2011?
Sin is getting our way – regardless of the sin itself.
The liar chooses to lie to protect or promote him or herself.
The porn addict chooses lust over purity.
The gossip chooses slander over silence.
The adulterer chooses his or her own selfish path over God’s.
The person who refuses to give chooses greed over generosity.
The person who refuses to forgive chooses bitterness over reconciliation.
You name the sin and the core nature of it is the same regardless of the name. Sin is getting our way. It is looking God’s direct command in the face and choosing the opposite (or a tainted form of it).
That’s why grace is so radical. God allows us to get our way and still chooses to redeem us. And as illustrated time and again in the Bible, He often allows us to get our way for extended periods of time. The Prodigal Son only returned home after getting his way in the most radical terms. He squandered everything his father had provided for him before returning home.
From the opening scene of the Bible, God allows humans to choose sin and yet He still pursues and redeems them.
In a sense, grace is convenient. That's what makes us squirm even when we read or hear those words. Grace is our escape. It is our out. That’s what makes it radical. It is not earned or deserved. As a matter of fact the opposite is true: we do not deserve it. We can’t earn it.
Paul says in Romans that we choose sin and yet grace abounds. At its heart, grace flies in the face of human reasoning and our sense of justice. We struggle with a grace that is so big that it allows humans to get their way and still find forgiveness.
And yet if we are really honest with our own hearts, it is this radical grace upon which we all depend. It is so easy to point the finger to the person whose sin is different than ours and cry “convenience” when they seek or claim forgiveness. You know why? Few of us take our own sin that seriously. Few of us realize that every time we sin we are “getting our way.” Few of us comprehend that the type of grace God provides is beyond what we think is fair or right.
As I said earlier, there is no way in a single blog to cover every matter related to this complex issue. There are matters of repentance and obedience and self-denial that will have to be addressed at a later time. Those are other issues with which I wrestling.
But for now, let’s rejoice over the magnitude of a grace that covers our sin. After all, sin is getting your way. And grace is God pursuing and redeeming you regardless. And that is the radical nature of a God-initiated grace.