Friday, 3 June 2011
10:46:12 PM (GMT)
I've been reading a book by Philip Yancy titled "What's so amazing about grace?"
and here is a portion I'm half quoting, half paraphrasing. Please read it. This
wonderful book is teaching me new things every time I open it.
People, and myself included of course, have wondered about abusers of grace. A
person who murders or commits adultery while thinking "eh, God will forgive me for it
anyway, so why not?". When we aren't the person thinking that way, we feel it unfair
to God and to the 'righteous' to abuse grace.
It is said in this book, however "Forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered
if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness."
(The book continues) "Here is what I told my friend Daniel, in a nutshell, after he
told me he plans to leave his wife of 15 years for a younger, more attractive woman
on the basis of 'why not? God will forgive me anyway and I really want this'.
Can God forgive you? Of course. You know the Bible. God uses murderers and
adulterers. For goodness' sake, a couple of scoundrels named Peter and Paul led the
New Testament church. Forgiveness is our problem, not God's. What we have to
go through to commit sin distances us from God- we change in the very act of
rebellion- and there's no guarantee we will ever come back. You ask me about
forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially if it involves
"Pascal once said 'Truly it is an evil to be full of faults, but it is a still
greater evil to be full of them, and to be unwilling to recognize them."
"People divide into two types: not the guilty and the 'righteous,' as many of us
believe, but rather two different types of guilty people. There are guilty people
who acknowledge their wrongs, and guilty ones who do not. Just as in John 8."
"The incident takes place in the temple courts, where Jesus is teaching. A group of
Pharisees and teachers of the law interrupt this "church service" by dragging in a
woman caught in adultery. Following the custom, she is stripped to the waist as a
token of her shame. Terrified, defenseless, publicly humiliated, the woman cowers
before Jesus, her arms covering her bare breasts."
"Adultery takes two, of course, but the woman stands alone before Jesus. John makes
clear that the accusers have less interest in punishing a crime than in setting a
trap for Jesus, and quite a clever trap it is. Moses' law specifies death by stoning
for adultery, yet Roman law forbids the Jews from carrying out executions. Will
Jesus obey Moses or Rome? Or will he, notorious for his mercy, find some way to let
this adulteress off the hook? If so, he must defy Moses' law before a crowd
assembled in the very courts of the temple. All eyes are on him."
"At that moment crackling with tension, Jesus does something unique: he bends down
and writes on the ground with his finger. John does not tell what Jesus wrote in the
sand. Some believe he was listing various sins: adultery, murder, pride, greed,
lust. Each time he writes a new word, more Pharisees file away."
"Jesus speaks finally. 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to
throw a stone at her."
"Eventually all of the accusers slink away."
"Next Jesus addresses the woman. 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'
She replies 'no one, sir'. And to this woman, dragged in terror to her expected
execution, Jesus grants absolution: 'then neither do I condemn you... Go now and
leave your life of sin."
Jesus replaced two assumed categories, righteous (as the pharisees), and guilty (as
the adulteress) with two different categories. Sinners who admit and sinners who
deny. The woman caught in adultery helplessly admitted her guilt. Far more
problematic were people like the Pharisees who denied or repressed guilt. They
needed to admit they required grace in order to receive it. They left because they
had remembered they too were guilty of one or more of the sins Jesus may have been
writing down, and they know the proper punishments that should await them.
This is the 'catch' to grace. It must be received, and the Christian term for that
act is repentance. To admit mistakes and to humbly and wholeheartedly want
forgiveness and redemption. If the Pharisees had admitted their sins and wanted to
receive forgiveness, they would.
The best people are those who repent. For someone who has not repented, or has
forgotten it, are of little use in spreading anything good in this world. We are so
much more eager to give love and forgiveness when we remember how little we deserve
the love and forgiveness that has been shown to us.