If There is No Sin, There is No Grace
Be of sin, the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure – Augustus Toplady
There is a hesitance, actually more like a firm resistance, to calling any behavior, “sin.” When the issue of sexual lifestyles are discussed, even evangelicals are wary of labeling any one behavior as sin. It’s the word we want to run far, far way from. Nobody sins anymore. They make mistakes. They were born that way. They are misunderstood.
The Bible, however, has clear categories. And some things are sin. Sexual license is sin. Murder is sin. Libel is sin. Gossip is sin. Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t just say that humans commit sin, but that humans are actually, by nature, sinners. That is they aren’t naturally good people who sometimes fall off the wagon and sin. We are sinners by nature.
But what about grace? Isn’t the church supposed to be about spreading the good news that God has accepted sinners by grace? Isn’t the message of the church that God’s grace covers even the vilest of sins? Yes, it is. And this is a message we should shout from the rooftops. It should be the core of what we evangelicals do and say.
Here’s the rub. If you stop acknowledging that some choices are sinful, you stop needing that wonderful thing called grace. In other words, if everything is okay, is just a different lifestyle, but not actually a gross violation of the righteousness of God, then why would you need grace? You wouldn’t, because nobody is doing anything wrong.
This is why the Church must talk about sin and about grace. At times, followers of Jesus have talked more about sin, as if God was violently angry at sinners and they have no hope. As if we were gleeful, like the Pharisees, to catch someone abusing God’s standard. This is the wrong message and denies the gospel.
And yet, we seem to be in a moment in the church when we want to talk about grace in a way that acts like sin is no big deal. Let’s not talk about sin, after all we’re suppose to be the people of grace. Wait a minute, though. If there is no sin, there is no need for grace.
The point I’m making here is this: Unless I realize I’m a sinner deserving of God’s just wrath against sin, I cannot experience the richness and fullness of His grace. If I deny my sin, I shut the door on grace. This was Jesus’ message to the woman at the well. Yes, you are a woman who is living in sin. Yes, you are just the kind of person I came to save.
We have to acknowledge both realities. This is why talk of the word, “sin” should not frighten us who believe in the gospel. Because it was not mistakes or missteps or misunderstandings that Christ came to conquer and defeat. He came to defeat sin and sin’s awful child: death.
I’m not proud of my sin, but I’m glad to recognize that I’m a sinner. Because sinners are the only people eligible for Jesus’ unlimited grace.