I recently had a conversation with someone who took issue with Christianity’s grace and forgiveness. This person felt that Christianity gives people a free pass to be jerks since God will always forgive them. Sure, Christians should be better and nicer people, but where is the accountability? Usually Christians are accused of the being too judgmental and not loving and forgiving enough. How do we handle the opposite? Do Christians get to be jerks?
By No Means
A genuine conversion to Christianity involves acknowledging your sins and asking Jesus for forgiveness. The Christian doesn’t do good works to earn their salvation but out of gratitude for the salvation already given to them. We will still make mistakes, but we are not to continue being apathetic towards sin.
As Paul said in Romans 6, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)? Do Christians get to be jerks? Whether it happens or not, the Bible certainly does not condone this apathetic or sinful behavior.
Where is the Accountability?
What about in practice, though? We probably all know Christians who are less than pleasant people to be around. In an ideal world, Christians ought to hold each other accountable. We must challenge each other and push them towards more godly living. However, even without other people, the Christian has the Holy Spirit within them to convict and guide them.
James 2 makes a strong argument for the necessity of good works. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26 ESV). The harsh application would be that the person who apathetically continues in sin with no change probably does not have faith. To struggle is expected, but there is no excuse for apathy.
Apply with Caution
If that is true that the person who claims to be a Christian but exploits grace for their sin lacks genuine faith, I recommend caution when applying it. It is easy to look at every fellow Christian who sins or has personally wronged us and instantly assume that they are frauds. However, we need to approach these situations with some humility. First, we don’t see every part of their lives. There is often more happening behind the scenes than we realize, especially with another person’s guilt and intentions.
Second, we don’t always know what work God has already done in them. Maybe they are a jerk now, but how long have you known that person? Are you certain that there hasn’t already been steady growth? After all, how often have we been the jerk in this situation? Give some benefit of the doubt here, especially if you want the same shown to you when you make mistakes.
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