Sometimes people misunderstand. Sometimes others do it deliberately. My then fiancé, now wife, and her roommate Terry used to make it a habit to misconstrue everything I said. I don’t remember all of the ways they did it, but these are the kinds of things they used to do. “Does this dress make me look fat?” “No.” “Oh, so the other one did?” “sigh” or “You look beautiful tonight!” “So I didn’t last night?” or “Which dress do you like best, the red one or the blue one?” “Blue” “So you don’t like the red and you didn’t say anything when I wore it last week?” They had a lot of fun antagonizing me by deliberately taking my words out of context, and, to be honest, I had fun when they did that too. It became a game of wits as I tried to find a way to say something they couldn’t do that with. I always lost.
As much fun as that deliberate word play was, things like that can be a problem when it’s done in real life by people who really misunderstand, or willingly do so to gain personal wealth. While we could probably have an interesting discussion about whether or not this is happening today, we do know that this has happened throughout history. This is true especially in the Church as people down through the ages have twisted words and concepts that are important to Christianity to fulfill their own desires. One idea that has been twisted is grace. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4)
We sing the song Amazing Grace because God’s grace is so amazing! Someone asked me recently, “What is grace?” I told them it’s the free and unmerited favor of God. It’s the love of God not because I have earned it, but because God’s loves is in His nature. It is because of God’s grace that He forgives my sins, and the sins of all people. That’s where the problem started in the early church. They moved from the fact that God loves us so much because that’s in His nature, and He forgives our sins because of it, to telling people that they didn’t need to worry about how they lived once they turned to Christ because God would forgive them. They focused on the Greek interpretation that the body was bad anyway, so you didn’t need to worry about what you did, and then they would explain their (wrong) belief that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh; that He was just a spirit because the flesh, the body, was evil.
The truth about grace is that while it is the free and unmerited favor of God, it not only leads us to belief in Jesus, God’s grace is also a change agent, leading us to become more like Jesus and leave our sins behind. I’m not perfect. There are many people who could tell you that and provide examples of my imperfections. I give in to temptations, but I never think, “Oh, I can sin because God’s grace will forgive me.” I would never advocate sin because of God’s grace either. Jude pointed out that these are people who have been condemned already. They’ve perverted the grace of God so that they could justify their own immoral choices. The idea that I could do that both frightens, and saddens me. How could I take the death of Jesus on the cross for my sins and the grace God shows through that death and turn it into a license to do whatever I want. God’s grace doesn’t allow people to live contrary to His desires, it forgives them when they do, and slowly molds them into the image of His Son so that our lives would be shining examples of how God can change people. Grace is not an excuse for sin; grace is God’s way of showing His love and a change agent to mold us into the likeness of His Son. What amazing grace!
Oh Lord, Your grace is amazing. Thank You for loving me when I didn’t deserve it. Thank You for changing me to become like Jesus.