Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
“All should be forgiven, and the thoughtless especially.”
Leo Tolstoy, Where Love Is (New York, 1915), page 20.
The Lord taught us to forgive at two levels.
Deep in our hearts, forgiveness is unconditional, since God has forgiven us: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This forgiveness is absolute, before God.
At the level of our relationships, forgiveness is conditional: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). After all, how can one forgive a sin that hasn’t been confessed? For the relationship to be restored, the sinning brother must repent.
But what if he doesn’t repent? Or doesn’t even realize the harm he has done? Sadly, the relationship remains broken. But deep within, “. . . and the thoughtless especially.” This is the most costly forgiveness, because it is unseen, unthanked.
But God sees. As in everything else, all that ultimately matters is who God is, what God says, how God works.
A few days ago I posted the statement by Jenny Sanford.
On the face of it, it sounds "right". Forgiveness, restoration, putting a marriage back together. It takes a lot of work and their work was made much more difficult by the fact that the work is now in the public eye.
There is one thing "wrong" (and it's not Jennifer that wrote it). I happened to hear Michelle Malkin on the Sean Hannity show right before I read the statement and she made a big fuss (BIG) about the fact that Sandford was in Argentina on Father's Day and not spending it with his sons.
Here's the thing. The statement said that his wife asked him to leave, so it was her decision for him to not have any contact with his family during that time.
There is a lot that Sanford did wrong - spending Father's Day away from his kids was not his choice so he should not be blamed for that.
As far as what he did - there is no excuse. We don't know what was happening in their marriage that may have made it "seem" like an option, but what he did was wrong.
Should he resign? I believe so, but not because of his moral behavior. If we learned anything during the Clinton years, it was that if it doesn't affect the job, we shouldn't worry about it.
But this did. I believe that he should resign because he put his staff in the position of lying for him.
As I knit, I've been knitting socks, I've been using a variety of patterns. After browsing patterns (mostly looking at pictures, I can sort out the patterns later) I noticed that they mostly follow the same basic structure.
Cast on 64 (56, 48, 32). Are all socks multiples of 8? The vast majority, yes. ok.
There are only two places that the sock "decreases" - the heel and the toe. I use the "magic loop" method of sock knitting, so I have the sock in two parts (the top of the foot and the bottom of the foot). You decrease 1 stitch at both ends of both these parts every other row.
For a while I worried about trying to remember if I had decreased the even rows or the odd rows and then I just decided that (if I had to) I would adjust the pattern so that I also decreased on the odd rows.
EVEN IS EVEN
During the decrease times, I knit even (no increase, no decrease) on the even rows.
Once I established this habit, it became...well, a habit. I have a row counter, if it's an even row, I knit even.
EVEN IS EVEN
One of the big political flaps of the week was the Letterman/Palin media scuffle.
Other than the "top ten" lists, I'm not a big Letterman fan. I appreciate the Palin family's protection (even if overly dramatic) of their child.
Matthew 18 may (or may not) apply - Letterman does not claim to be a brother in Christ. But we are to show the world how repentance and forgiveness works. If Palin had gone privately to Letterman first, perhaps there would have been a different ending? Right now, the sincerity of the apology is being debated; if the confrontation had been private and Letterman had said the same thing, there would be no debate.
Palin made political hay. While I understand her very public defense of her daughter and would most likely (at the very least have been tempted to) do the same, she still made hay.
Over the last couple of days, Sarah Palin had two roads. Her "acceptance" of the apology is just as insincere as the apology is made out to be. Her chiding had no place in the forgiveness by a Christian.
"Of course it's accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."
In an ideal world, it would have been
"Of course, on behalf of women everywhere, it's accepted."
Period. Just as "sorry...but..." apologies have a more appropriate ending, so do acceptances.
But that is what is it is.
Just as important:
EVEN IS EVEN
Just as important is the response of Christians.
I've written before about how an apology is a cheap substitute for real repentance. and "I accept" is a cheap substitute for real forgiveness.
Real forgiveness means restoration and a promise to not hold the offense against the offender again. Ever.
An opportunity to show the Gospel has been passed up. If the Palins (including Willow) had agreed to be on Letterman's show and if Willow had held Letterman's hand and said,
"We all do things that are wrong and we all need forgiveness. I have been forgiven by God and I forgive you."
What would that have told the world?
But no...there is hay to be made.
- Why is a critical (as in critical thinking) reading of this book essential?
- People are not reading this book as a work of fiction. As I encounter more people who have read the book, I hear more gushing over how they understand god (lower case on purpose) better than they ever have!
- Most heresies begin with the nature of who God is. If "The Shack" teaches a different god than the God of Scripture, and if the god/goddess of the book is the god/goddess that people are believing in and trusting - they are trusting a false god.
- As humans, we build for ourselves the god that we think we need - which is not necessarily the God that our Holy Father has chosen to reveal Himself as in His Inspired Word.
- As we build the god that we think we need - the god that we want, we humanize that which cannot be brought down to our human level.
So here are the questions to keep in mind as I read "The Shack":
- How does the god/goddess of the book differ from the God that reveals Himself in Scripture?
- What are the positives that can be learned from the book and can they be easily separated from the false teachings?
- How will I discuss what can be learned with people who are enthusiastic about "The Shack", with grace while teaching what is wrong with the book - how can I help others understand the difference?
- How will this book enrich my walk with God - whether as a positive teaching of forgiveness, or as a negative awareness of the danger of false teaching?
A while ago (years) I read an article about a woman who had a wretched childhood and grew up into a wretched adulthood. Prostitution, porn, drugs, etc.
Then Christ made her His child.
There were a number of bloggers out there who had problems with her telling her whole story and the issues they had were varied.
One was - why does she glorify sin by telling of the sin she was in? That is not the way to look at it...she is glorifying God by telling the depths to which she had sunk and that God can nobody is beyond God's grace.
Another - who is she to think that she can just repent and have a "get out of consequences free" card? Does she really think that she can just become a Christian and be accepted? Hello? do you know what she did? That is not the way that it is! If the Father embraced the prodigal, so should we. It is our job to raise up the children in the faith, not keep them down.
Next - Okay, she's a Christian? but she will never be qualified for ministry - after all, she may be forgiven, but there are earthly consequences. No...no... Paul was a murderer. So was Moses. David was a murderer - and an adulterer. They were all ministers of God's Word.
The prodigal should be restored. Period.
I am working my way through "Prodigal God" and I am reminded that I am thankful for the "Fathers" and "neighbors" in my life.
I am thankful for those who welcome me back, who rejoice at my homecoming.
I am also increasingly aware of those who resent the grace extended - I am aware of the "older brother". Those who will not ony "not forgive", but also resent the forgiveness extended by the Father.
There was a time when I was the "older brother" - that was a lead up in my life to a time when I could be either the "older brother" from the parable, or I could choose to be the "right" older brother - the one who welcomed the younger back.
There are many people who are not ready to restore. Restore! That is the point of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not a hoop to jump through in order to get God's favor. Following God's pattern for forgiveness is the way that we show that we are forgiven. So much so that Scripture tells us that if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us.
Forgiveness is a witness to the world that we are forgiven. And if there are debts that we are holding, it is those sort of debts that will be held against us.
Jay Adams calls "apologizing" the world's unsatisfactory substitute for forgiveness.
"uh...sorry"..."that's ok." That is apology and it's not repentance, and it's not real forgiveness.
There is another question that parallels "what is forgiveness".
What does forgiveness DO?
What makes "forgiveness", "forgiveness"?
Is it a feeling? No - Scripture says nothing about "feeling" forgiving. Scripture tells us to forgive.
Eph.4:32 tells us, "...forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
The "as" gives us a model. Strong's gives the definition
...a)just as, even as
...b)in proportion as, in the degree that
2)since, seeing that, agreeably to the fact that
3)when, after that
What does Scripture tell us about God's forgiveness of us? Does He simply sit in heaven and "emote"? No, He gives us a promise.
Isa 43:25 "I, I am he who blots outyour transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
Jer 31:34b For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
If forgiveness were merely a "feeling", we could not rely on this promise.
If forgiveness were merely "forgetting", it would not be a purposeful relinquishing of the debt. I can "forget" my keys. But the Almighty Creator of the universe cannot forget anything. It is a commitment to not recall, not bring it to remembrance, not to bring it up, remind, mention or record the offense.
If I make that promise to forgive - to not bring it up again - and I do, that is breaking a promise. I went through a really rough time with my daughter a couple of years ago. That which was done is no longer between us - and the repentance/forgiveness process works.
We went through this book. I DID bring it up again and my daughter (as my sister in Christ) reminded me of the promise. I had my own repenting to do. The process works.
Forgiveness is a promise.
How do you define "forgiveness"?
Several years ago I was working with first graders trying to "get" math. One young lady really struggled with the concepts and one day she huffed and puffed and finally rolled her eyes and said, "I am so happy that Jesus invented erasers!"
Jesus is like that.
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
It is people that have the eraser problem.
In another place, we're rehasing divorce and remarriage...Here is a quote from Mark Driscoll's church's position paper.
"...The consequence of sexual sin is grave and not resolvable for the offending spouse, outside the mercy and grace of the other spouse. Hardness of heart will demand punishment. Mercy and grace will work toward authentic repentance and restoration."
There are a couple of problems with this position.
1) This entire position leaves out GOD! Forgiveness and restoration depends not on God, but on people.
2) This position assumes that if the "offended" spouse refuses to forgive, it must be because the "offending" spouse is not authentically forgiven. It is dangerous to assume that.
3) Nothing is said of the sin of having a hard heart. If (generic) you refuse to forgive a repentant person, that is one of the things that should make you question whether or not you are even a Christian.
In this position, restoration depends entirely on another human being. A sinner can stand repentant before God and it just wouldn't matter.
Another place our human erasers have problems is with the false separation of forgiveness and restoration.
When we are forgiven by God, He does not hold our sins against us.
Often, when we are "forgiven" by people, we hear, "I forgive you, but I just can't..."
One (now departed) woman I knew said, "I forgive him, but I don't have to like him and I don't have to talk to him and I don't have to accept him." Is that forgiveness? It sure certainly isn't restoration.
And it is the opposite of 2 Cor 2:7-8 7 "...so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him."
There are three things needed for a sinner to be restored to the body. Forgiveness, comfort, reaffirming love.
Jay Adams says in "From Forgiven to Forgiving":
The word reaffirm is a specialized term...meaning to officially reinstate. When one repents and is readmitted into the church, he may not be accepted as a second-class citizen of the kingdom of God. God has no such citizens. The repentant one comes back with full rights and privileges of membership into the church...Now, in most reconciliation contexts, someone will not be reentering the church after having been disciplined out of it, but, in an unofficial way, the same thing holds. Neither you nor others should remain aloof from the brother or sister who is reinstated. Fu7ll fellowship must be restored. He should be restored with active, loving words and deeds by all..."
If you don't have this book, I strongly urge you to follow the link and get it (I don't get a cut, Baker is just my favorite Christian bookstore), read it and put it into practice. Putting the principles in this book into action has changed my relationship with my daughter. She knows that if she has repented for an action and I bring it up again, she can (and does) call me on it. I do the same with her. This recipricol accountability has changed things.
I know that it is impossible for a person to truly take a another at his or her word and forgive and not hold it against them. It is truly impossible. How can we comfort the person who sinned against us?!?
The answer is that we can't. Romans 7:18 says, "...For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. "
But there's hope, Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
A (then unsaved) friend of mine was once going through a very difficult situation and she said to me, "I'm not going to be able to do this without God, am I." Nope.
And no, forgiving God's way requires God. It keeps us humble and it keeps the forgiven one restored.
I think God planned it that way.