Are We Too Casual with Grace?
A few nights ago I sat around a large dinner table with a bunch of women from my church. The candles flickered, our Bibles sat open, and we talked about our faith. Together we're reading J.I. Packer's Knowing God, and we spent much of our night talking about his chapter on grace. It was a rich conversation.
Grace is a word that communicates infinite power and gentle love in a single, soft syllable. Grace is a free gift, undeserved and flowing freely from a source that will never dry.
But sometimes—maybe because it's free, maybe because it never ends, maybe because we speak of it often—we treat grace casually.
As we sat around that table talking, we found ourselves asking how we could discern whether we were treating grace with flippancy or gratitude, and we arrived at a revealing question: Am I grieved about my sin?
In some ways at least, our attitude about grace is determined less by how we speak of grace itself and more by whether or not we're genuinely grieved by our sin.
In Paul's second letter to the men and women he loved in the Corinthian church, he writes:
"For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting" (2 Cor. 7:9).
Paul rejoices that his words brought them grief because of what that grief produced in their lives: true repentance.
Again, that heart-penetrating question: When was the last time you felt grief over your sin?
Is this overstating it? Should we really feel grief over small, ordinary sin? Surely, that was for the Puritans. Or King David. Or really wicked, depraved sinners. But me? Grief over ordinary, acceptable sins like apathy, unkindness, impatience, gluttony, anger, lust, discontentment, selfishness, materialism, pride?
When materialism oozes out of me and pride puffs me up and apathy makes me cold and gluttony fills my belly and lust satisfies my eyes, am I grieved over this stuff? Does my sin grieve me?
A heart raw with grief hurts. But God often leads us where it's painful and dark so that, afterward, redemption might then shine bright.
As we sat around that table and talked, one dear friend of mine shared this insight: "I think sometimes when I sin, I'm more frustrated at myself for sinning again than I am genuinely grieved that I sinned against my Savior."
Her words resonated. When I examine my heart I know that sometimes my sadness over sin is a self-centered disappointment about my failure and not a godly grief that I've sinned and failed to love Jesus.
We're wired to desire joy. But for the Christian, true joy comes only after sin's grief leads to genuine repentance. In Christ—in the pattern of redemption—there is life after death, light after darkness, and joy after grief.
Is this where it stops? If we've identified an indifference towards grace and a lack of grief toward sin, do we just shrug our shoulders and hang our head in defeat?
Far from defeat, we step into the victorious shadow of the cross and look up. Jesus was acquainted with grief during life and bore our grief during death. Because of Him, neither sin nor grief will ever crush us.
By Elisha Galotti