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.
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.
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?”
Even so, you cannot mix grace and law. Like leaven, the law overtakes the whole loaf. If you mostly believe in the one-way grace and acceptance of God, but you still maintain that somehow there remains the remote possibility that our poor performance can persuade Him to reject us, you have the leaven of the Pharisees.
However, as believers in Christ we do not come together in assembly just because we are supposed to. We come together because the blood of Jesus brings us together. It is our community. We are all partakers of the grand scandal of forgiveness in Christ.
Saying that we need to balance grace with works is similar to saying that we need to balance breathing air with suffocation. There is no balance; you either breathe air or you die. People try to grasp some of these concepts about God by introducing the idea of balance in a nonsensical way.
Think about it like a normal person for just a second: how can you say He was sacrificed for sins and then say that if you sin, the sacrifice is no good?
If you live and breathe and think and exist in an environment where you believe in the power of Christ’s blood shed for sinners, you have escaped the two-dimensional prison. You really have come to believe, not simply that you alone are forgiven, but that there is a possibility of real lasting definitive forgiveness at all. You believe in substitutionary atonement.
We, as a group, are a community of sinners who have mercy and grace in His blood. We are new creatures in Christ, but sin still lives on in us as a kind of living dead zombie presence. We should be very very clear that the heart of the gospel is not that we are personally transformed. It is that we are justified. We are redeemed. We are reconciled.
In a recent post, Peter Rollins brings up an interesting idea about how many people base their relationships on what I would call false grace: … religion doesn’t simply offer a set of positions to conform to, it also offers the acceptable ways in which one can transgress these positions: it tells us both how […]