We are masters at justifying our behavior. If we REALLY want something then we will find a way to convince our brains and our hearts that it is okay to do it. Those of us who are really slick and have a little bit of the Bible tucked away in our heads will bring up Scripture to justify our behavior.
The Apostle Paul once heard a report from the church in the city of Corinth that blew his mind. It seems that one of the church members had an affair with his father’s wife. The church was so proud of their liberty and freedom and openness. Paul was not proud. Instead, he wrote:
Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1 Corinthians 5:2)
I would guess that a good many of us have never tried to get frisky with our step mothers, there are other areas in our lives where we do what we want to do even when we know we shouldn’t be doing it.
Someone once talked to me about the two types of Christians: law-driven people and grace-driven people. When it comes to justifying our behavior we all suddenly turn into grace-driven Christians, promoting God’s grace above all else.
“God’s grace covers all.”
Paul had to fight this mentality from the church in Rome. His response:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in God’s grace. If God were not gracious with us we’d all be toast. But we must walk that line between receiving grace and abusing grace.
Grace does not give us carte blanche to sin and willfully make unrighteous decisions. Grace does offer to catch us when we fall. Grace helps us get back on track. But as we grow in our faith and in our relationship with God, our new life should pull us away from the old behavior into a new way of doing things. It’s spiritual maturity. Paul continues:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires….For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)
Remember when you fell in love for the first time? Most of us will go through a lot in order to change ourselves so that we can be the perfect partner for the one we love (many young people foolishly pretend to be something other than what they really are, and that will blow up later). The point is this – grace isn’t about abusing the freedom God has given us. It’s not a get out of jail free card to continue making evil choices. Grace should be drawing us in a closer relationship with God to the point where we WANT to be different.
It’s not about “How bad can I be and still be a Christian?”
It’s about “How much do I love Jesus, and what am I willing to do to belong to him?”