If there was a movie scene where someone was actually washing up with blood, I think we would say that the filmmakers had really gone too far. It is a metaphor of horror. Yet this is a central and somehow beautiful tenet of the Christian faith. How could this be? Why would any intelligent sane person believe such things?
How is it that people make behavioral repentance a condition to salvation, and still call Him a savior? What is saving?
If Jesus’ mercy was expressed for killing a fly or stealing a dollar, then His mercy would work only for such shallow easy sins. Justice and mercy would kiss no further. But His expression of mercy is that we should obey God all the way until it kills us, and love our enemies and forgive them from the heart while they are murdering us.
It is the persistent love of God which keeps beaming at us regardless of our performance or degree of transformational success which transforms us.
The unadorned naked real gospel of grace has unending power to cleanse us right down to our very conscience and secret mind. The gospel has the power to cleanse us so that when handed our dangerous freedom, we may screw up terribly, but we gradually learn to love the holy. The law cannot do so.
So, you may say, McNeely DOES preach forgiveness without repentance! We caught him! However, the real perspective is this: I caught you, friend of Bonhoeffer! You are preaching forgiveness based on “repentance.” You are preaching justification based on something other than mere belief.
It seems that Peter has something like this in mind. ‘Your sin’, he seems to be saying, ‘is a very serious matter. It set you in opposition to God and handed you over to eternal condemnation. From that situation there was no escape. You were hopelessly, irrevocably lost. There is no ransom from such a situation. And then, incredibly, unbelievably, a ransom was found.
This is exactly how behavioral righteousness works under the gospel. People think the basis of the gospel is moral pressure because it is written that it many times results in righteous behavior. However, the basis of the gospel has nothing to do with this.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is a profound lesson in the dynamics of life under grace. One thing that I think is important to notice, is that in this parable it is considered a blessing among all concerned to get to work. Standing around doing nothing is not simply wrong -more importantly, it is undesirable.
We talk about the rich young ruler a lot in my house. His problem is not, as is commonly thought, his unwillingness to obey. He came asking the wrong question in the first place. He did not come asking, “How can I inherit eternal life?” He came asking, “What must I do that I may obtain eternal life?”