On Wednesdays for the foreseeable future, I will be doing a series called “Finding Grace.” Through this series, I will be working through seeing God’s gift of grace to us in a variety of topics that can often lead people to challenge God’s goodness. Today serves as an introduction explaining why grace is so key to the Gospel, therefore flowing over into so many aspects of our lives.
“But the gift is not like the trespass [through Adam all die]. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed to the many. And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification. Since by the one man’s trespass, death resigned through the one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17)
I love Romans. Whenever I need a refreshing drink of water for my soul, I turn to this book. I don’t think there is another book in the New Testament that so clearly emphasizes God’s grace to us through the Gospel. Paul walks us through our need for sin, God’s grace triumphing over sin and death, and how we are to live in response to all of it.
And you know what echoes through the book of Romans over, and over, and over again? This idea that we are the worst sinners imaginable; we are always going to fail in trying to be good and righteous before God. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because once we become a believer, grace abounds so far that nothing we ever did, do, or will do can separate us from the love of God.
Here’s where I struggle with grace. As a Christian, I do think I believe this and I praise God for it as often as I am reminded of it. However, I know that at least I’m terrible at offering this same amount of grace to other believers. It’s far too easy to forget that your brothers and sisters in Christ are covered by the same grace as you.
Just like we must be a culture of hope as believers, we must also be a culture of grace. As Paul describes in Romans 6, we don’t want to continue living in sin “so that grace may abound all the more.” If we’re true believers, however, I think our internal “sin-ometer” is pretty constant. We are also blessed with other believers around us to look at our lives and tell us if there is sin we do not see, and to convict us if we’re knowingly living in sin.
The tricky part is balancing grace with lovingly confronting sin that we see in our brothers and sisters. First, the most unloving thing you can do is to notice something that isn’t Christ-like and refrain from bringing it to the attention of that person. What usually happens when we do this? We brood over it inside and silently “judge” her without any love and grace at all. Even worse than brooding over it in our minds, we begin to gossip about it. So, truly the loving thing to do is to bring the sin to your brother or sister’s attention.
When you speak with her, refer to Scripture first. Sit with her and gently read whatever passage is associated with the sin that you see. Let her know, first and foremost, that you love her and that’s why you’re having this conversation; you felt it would be unloving to stay silent. Then, with as much love as you can, state what you’ve seen in that person’s life. When you finish, remind her of the grace she’s been given in Christ. Tell her you’er bringing up the sin because you want her to follow the commands in Romans 6, living in the manner in which she’s been called. When you address your fellow believers in this way, you’re exemplifying Christ’s love. You’re not angry, you’re not a gossip, you’re not pouring out judgment. You’re loving them by gently helping them to be aware of something that will make them more like Christ.
If a believer comes to you and confesses a sin, it should be the same process of reminding her of the grace you’ve been given. Someone choosing to confess sin is evidence of Christ working in her heart. Immediately show her the grace of the Gospel. Whatever the sin, as Christ has forgiven her, so you should forgive her as well. Do not continue to hold anything over that person’s head, but encourage her to continue walking with Christ, and walk with her as she carries on.
Let’s erase a “Christian” culture of judgment without grace. The beauty of the Gospel is that we could never be good enough to measure up to standards of “goodness.” But, we have a good God who has called us to live in his example as his children, to be a witness to the world. We know that we will never be perfect, and that’s why we have the Gospel. God is so good and gracious to us, and have provided us with so much mercy. Let’s show that same mercy to our fellow believers today.