gravitas: dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.
There is an age-old popular notion that proponents of grace are light on morals. I like to point to this fine quote from Kevin DeYoung:
Sure, it would be great to be a better person, and you do hope to avoid the really big sins. But you figure, since we’re saved by grace, holiness is not required of you, and frankly, your life seems fine without it.
Kevin DeYoung, There’s a Hole in Our Holiness
People want to strike down the “hyper-grace” or “radical grace” teaching by setting up a straw man like this to shoot down. Actually, the advocates of the power of the gospel and the incredible grace that it offers have a very high standard of law and a very clear idea of the terror of our sinfulness. The grace that comes through the gospel of Christ and Him crucified is not simply a vapid dismissal of all responsibility and consequence. Bloodless crossless “grace” is a damaging idolatry, and ends up being no grace at all. Because love requires justice for the beloved, and we transgress justice every little time our sin rules our decisions, there must be wrath expressed against our sin or else God blesses and approves our evil.
There was a very great price paid for our redemption. Jesus did not receive a reprimand from the Father to redeem us. He did not get a spanking. He did not not receive lashings and then get released. He did not do community service in our place as our ransom. He did not even receive a quick painless death like a beheading or lethal injection for our redemption. He was publicly nailed naked and bleeding to a wooden pole to be mocked and scorned. He was left there, rejected outside the city, in tortuous pain, to die of starvation and exposure. This is a very harsh death. Jesus sweat blood in His prayers to avoid it. This is what He did in our place.
There are two things to understand from this. First, our sin has a tremendous weight, and an overwhelming gravitas. We may think our sin is some small manageable thing that isn’t really hurting anyone — not really. Everyone looks! Everyone covets a little. Everyone gets a little upset with someone here and there. Everyone is a little greedy here and there, or a little selfish. Everyone lets their tongue loose once in a while. We’re only human, right? The “only human” argument doesn’t really fly with God Almighty. Nothing but perfect love will do. He means it. That is why there is talk of hell — which to us seems just a bit harsh, does it not? That is also why there had to be the horrible sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God. It declares the terror and the power and the gravity of God’s wrath against sin in a way we can grasp. He means business, He really does. He must. No one wants to live in the universe where God can’t be counted on to ultimately uphold justice. We just don’t want to acknowledge the fact that we are part of the threat against justice that God has to uphold His good cause against. So no one will get away with any sin, ever, no matter how slight. There are no secrets. There will be no excuses. When you are tempted, remember the cross. This is how God feels about what you are considering.
Second, our justification is just (Romans 3:26). It isn’t simply nice, and it isn’t simply a gift. It is just. If I sin in some way, and believe that it breaks God’s acceptance and eternal love for me, it means that I believe that the horrible death of Jesus the perfect Son of God was not enough to satisfy justice. It means that I disagree with the Father, that what Jesus has done was enough. It offends the honor and affection which the Father has for the Son. The unbeliever basically tells the Father, “I don’t care what Jesus did for me, and you’re wrong. I should bear the weight of justice, not Jesus. I’m not all that bad.” You are telling the Father, Jesus’ death was unnecessary and probably of no consequence when it really counts.
Do you want to stand before the throne of God and tell Him that’s what you think?
When you have sinned, remember the degree to which your sin has been atoned. Justice has been served in full. God counts Jesus’ blood as most highly adequate justice for your transgression. You really dare not believe otherwise. Your false piety and groveling guilt cannot make atonement for you. Only the blood of Jesus can carry this great weight of wrath.
The cross of Christ declares that our sin has gravity. It is sobering in the weight of its badness. We may think it is not so bad, but the cross declares that it is much worse than we think. We may think that God is a great absent-minded grandfather in the sky, who is forgetful about our little foibles, but this is far from true. He is the ancient of days, the creator of all things, all-knowing and all-powerful. He acts decisively on His own schedule for His purposes. If you are in Christ, you have been rescued from a very just and a very certain weight of tremendous wrath and justice.
There is a fantastically buoyant upside to all of this. We are justified so completely, and Jesus’ blood is so powerfully salvific, that we can count on eternal life. We have escaped a terrible weight of judgment. We cannot and we need not and we should not bear the weight of our own guilt. We don’t have the resources to do this successfully. In Christ the world is turned upside down. Now, our own evil can’t condemn us because it is truly already judged, and the new gravitas in our life is our eternal splendor. We stand as just, as defended by the fierce power of God. The evil that happens to us is our gravitas of glory now:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.