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Real Grace

“There are ditches on both sides of the road,” the pastor would occasionally warn, and over time I’ve seen his proverb apply to many life situations. In last week’s post, “People Like Us,” we saw one such ditch in the story of the woman caught in adultery: our tendency to judge the moral failures of “some people,” even though temptations are allurements to which “sometimes we all” succumb. So it was that in one sentence—“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”1—Jesus guided the hearts of her accusers away from the ditch of condemnation and onto the road of contrition. He thus guides us still today.

Yet it is easy for us to overcorrect from the trench of one extreme and lurch toward that which awaits us on the other side. “Judge not, that you be not judged,”2 we say, quoting Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount, but if we misunderstand such grace, we can find ourselves in an equally dangerous place—condoning sin. This is by no means a new temptation, for Isaiah warns us against it: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”3 And upon hearing of early believers careening toward the misappropriation of grace, Paul wrote to the early church, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”4 Sin is not OK.

Grace, like freedom, is not the permission to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought. Grace leads us to forgiveness, yes, but equally to repentance—turning away from sin. Grace moves us to follow Him who granted it to us in the first place. It calls us to trust God, then also to obey Him. So after sending the woman’s accusers away, Jesus asked her, “Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she replied. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”5 She had received the precious gift of real grace—forgiveness from the guilt of sin and the redirection away from its power. May we live in such grace, as well.

Father, we praise You for Your lavish grace, and we thank You for it. Lead us away from the sin for which You have forgiven us, that in the joy of Your love, we would go and sin no more. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 John 8:7 ESV
2 Matthew 7:1 ESV
3 Isaiah 5:20 ESV
4 Romans 6:1-2
5 John 8: 10-11 ESV