Friday, April 20, 2012

The Battle of the Viruses: Law Vs. License

Have you ever had a boss that you thought was way too lenient?  I know that might be an oxymoron in your mind.  How can a boss be too lenient?  I had a boss who let people get away with murder.  He let them break dress code, get away without greeting customers, and stood idly by as they used their phones and laptops at work.  Basically, he let them take advantage of him and his good nature.

. . . until . . . He got fed up!

Once he got fed up, it was too late.  He brought every employee a list of new laws / rules that had to be followed, and if you stepped across the line once, it was the axe. It was the first time I didn't feel safe in keeping my job, and I quickly learned that I was going to have to watch my steps. 

I have been studying Jude for the past few weeks.  Jude wanted to write about the grace of God, but he couldn't.  He wasn't able to talk about the gospel and the forgiveness and the compassion of God, because there were people in the churches that were abusing the very thing he wanted to write about, GRACE.  We have the same types today.

. . . grace abusers . . .

These are people who argue like this:  I have been forgiven of my sins past, present, and future because of the good work of Jesus.  If my future sins are forgiven already, then I might as well live in any way that I choose.  I can do what I like, go where I like, and say what I like.  They have no concern for how God would want them to live, instead they only have concern for how THEY want to live.  The big theological term for these guys is "antinomians."  They are literally "anti-law!'  

Now . . . here is the rub; we have these types today.  People who abuse the grace of God!  How do we deal with them?  I think there is a biblical way of dealing with them, and then there are the ways that we often deal with them.  On the one hand we ignore them.  I think this is a problem in the mainline churches.  They focus on grace, which is awesome, but they kind of brush truth under the rug, and  if done long enough, it can leave the impression that God's grace is a license to sin it up, to do what we like, to go where we like, and to say what we like.  

In fact, as I was researching, I went to the website, which is a more mainline / roman catholic site.  I went there to see what they had to say about Jude and his antinomians, and I was disappointed.  They didn't even have Jude listed in their Scripture index.  Sometimes we ignore antinomians in our midst, and that is not the right way to deal with them

Other times we try to do what my former boss did.  We combat antinomianism with legalism / moralism.  We rightly focus on truth and ignore the wonderful grace of Jesus.  We just throw law at people, hoping that law with solve the problem of license, and this is not biblical either.  Legalism is just as much a problem as license.  In fact, the New Testament is filled with diatribes against the virus of legalism in the church, especially as it regards circumcision!  Legalism is not the right way to deal with the problem of license.  You might get outward behavior to conform to your standards, but law misses the heart.  Jude says instead we need to go on a rescue mission.  He wants us to show mercy and compassion to those who doubt and to snatch those who are being persuaded by this line of thinking from the fire.

So . . . The solution is simple.  A correct understanding of grace.  Think about the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 18.  The one about the guy who owed a huge debt.  He went before the king and the king forgave him his debt because he couldn't pay it back. He showed him 

. . . GRACE . . . 

Then, that same guy went out and demanded another individual who owed him a small amount to pay up.  WHAT!!!?  Jesus says to us that this is not the proper response to GRACE.  The proper response to grace is an inside out righteousness.  If I truly understand what Jesus did for me, it will compel me to righteousness.  When I understand how much I have been forgiven, I will want to forgive.  When I understand how much was sacrificed for me, I will want to sacrifice.  When I understand how much compassion I have been shown, I will want to show compassion.  When I understand how pure my gracious God is, I will want to be pure.  When I understand how much grace I have been shown, I will want to be, GRACE.  This is the grace equation.  

I don't know much about math, but I do know that two sides of an equation should balance.  So . . . the solution to license is not legalism; it is GRACE.  The solution to legalism is not license; it is GRACE.

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