In the 80’s I had a part time job delivering pizza for Cedar Lane Pizza in Teaneck, NJ. Delicious pie, promptly transported to your door, piping hot. But, there was one complaint the owner received that was so unusual I remember it to this day. A customer called up to complain that there was too much cheese on their pie! Since extra cheese is an expensive extra, this was a startling complaint. The shop’s owner told the pie-makers, from now on you need to dial it back a bit on the cheese ……
Anyway, this memory made me think of when people complain that there is too much grace. They’ll say, dial it back with all this talk about grace; giving the people so much grace means they will do whatever wild thing they feel like doing anytime they want. They need to have the law laid down to them, else, they’ll just have the attitude of “I love to sin, and God loves to forgive me.”
This anti-grace complaint is nothing new. When Paul explained how Jesus frees us from Law to live under grace, he anticipated this exact same objection. As people accused Paul of freeing people to sin to their heart’s content, he said:
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (Romans 6:2,15 NASB)
Here’s two big problems with laying down the law instead of teaching grace:
First: Did you ever not care whether you did something or not, but when someone said you were prohibited from doing it, that made you want to do it? Recently, I read that Major League Baseball was removing a video of a fight the Mets manager had with an umpire from the internet. I thought “Oh yeah? You don’t want me to watch it?” I went online and found the video.
Yes, laying down the law can incite me to disobey!
Second: Laying down the law brings fear of punishment.
It makes Jesus seem like a stern lawgiver. If I do a good deed, I am doing it reluctantly, under compulsion. Uncertain of Jesus’ love, I anxiously try to stay on his good side.
The answer: The true result of grace.
Jesus died to kill the hold of sin in me. Now I am free: I love doing good in the name of this savior who has already accepted me.