Unconditional Love and Grace Are Not Dirty Words

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A few weeks ago I heard a preacher talk about God’s unconditional love as if it was a dirty word. On another occasion, an old friend spoke of grace with equal disdain. I understand where they were coming from. One was coming from an attitude of legalism, while the other was grieving over grace being taken for granted and used as a license to sin. I am grateful that the pastors and teachers at the church I attend preach about God’s unconditional love and grace in a balanced way and without contempt.

 My daughter and I were discussing how people see truths differently depending on where they are in life and through which lens they are looking. For example, a person who truly recognizes his or her own utter depravity and the amazing grace and unconditional love of God, tends to really understand grace and is able to be gracious toward others. They see grace in a very positive way. Those who tend toward legalism and feel justified because they are able to keep certain commandments or live what they consider to be a good Christian life, tend to view unconditional love and grace with less value and speak contemptuously about churches that emphasize God’s love and grace. It is reminiscent of what Jesus said to Simon, the Pharisee, when he scorned Jesus for allowing a prostitute to wipe His feet with her hair. Jesus said:

“Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gave me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but his woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:36-50)

The preacher I heard also mentioned visiting a fellow Christian, and upon finding out he had beer in his refrigerator, condemned him and questioned whether or not the man was a true Christian. Even if the man was an alcoholic, it does not mean he is not a Christian. What if he is addicted but wants to quit? What if he agrees with God that his drunkenness is sin? Didn’t the Apostle Paul himself say in the very same letter to the Romans concerning there being “therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, that he himself does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do? Didn’t Paul call himself a wretched man and thank God for Jesus Christ his Lord? (Romans 7 :14-25)

The attitude of the preacher reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the publican (with modern claims added in italics and parentheses for emphasis):

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Alcohol has never touched my lips, nor my feet entered a movie theater. I am in church every time the doors are open, and I go out soul-winning every week.)” And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. —Luke 18:9-14

Another preacher, who is full of grace, has never condemned his crack addict friend. He does not question his love for the Lord just because his friend is in church for a time and then falls back into his crack addiction. This preacher loves his friend unconditionally and encourages him to never, ever, ever give up. Which one would you say is more like Jesus?

Unconditional love and grace are, indeed, not to be used as a license to do whatever we want. If we do that, then it is fair that our love for God would be put in question. But if we hate when we sin, if we agree with God and try to turn away from doing it again…

and again…

and again,

He forgives us 70 x 7, because He is full of grace and a love that does not put conditions on us, like doing penance, before He will love us again. His love is unconditional. A person who simply dismisses sin and makes light of it because of grace and unconditional love, may need to consider the seriousness of sin, the purpose of obedience, and his/her own love for God. Likewise, people who speak of unconditional love and grace with disdain, may need to consider their own depravity and remember from what they themselves have been saved.

If I err, I would rather err on the side of love and grace.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Love Sometimes Comes in Waves

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About Rene Yoshi

Just a transplanted Okinawan-French Southern girl with a wee bit o' Irish, sharing photography and what I'm learning about spiritual things, including putting off legalism and religious traditions, and embracing God's matchless love, tender mercy, and amazing grace! View all posts by Rene Yoshi

17 responses to “Unconditional Love and Grace Are Not Dirty Words

  • Tienny The Storyteller

    Rene, I never expect that a preacher can treat grace with contempt

    >

  • Unshakable Hope

    I’m still trying to find the balance between grace and legalism 🙂
    Another great post!

  • Randell Bell

    Ever since the gospel message of grace has been preached there have been those who have tried to add to it; grace plus works; grace plus the Law; grace for some,they were called Judaizers (Galatians 2:14), but that is not what the Bible teaches. Grace was given as a free gift to all, (though not all will accept it) Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. – Any addition to the message of grace with the exception of love is man’s doctrine or his feeble attempt to wrestle control of God’s gift so he can use it for his own agenda. Pastors who love to water down the message of grace or condemn people for misusing grace as a license to sin obviously do not believe the Holy Spirit has the power to keep those who put their trust in him. It is sad that the Judaizers are alive and well two-thousand years later.

  • claywatkins

    thank you Rene for your message… it was indeed a good read and a good message to remind myself how grateful i am for the things I have in my life thanks to Him and my faith in God, forgiveness and His grace. I’ll keep working to make the days count, I hope you have a great week.

  • Scott

    You’ve touched the raw nerve of what is called the Evangelical’s “Bloodsport”, i.e. ‘I am a better and more spiritual Christian than you are because I don’t ___________ (fill in the blanks) and YOU do!’ A basic description of legalism is adding or subtracting from the simplicity of Scripture. May the Lord have mercy on the pompous, self-serving individuals who create a litmus test to spirituality based on their own standard. Oh yes, they claim they ARE Scriptural and then twist the simple meanings of the Bible to suit their own notions. Like their Biblical predecessors the Pharisees, such folks are, indeed, whited sepulchres. I am reminded it would serve us ALL well to LIVE according to 1 Samuel 16:7 and know the LORD doesn’t concern Himself with outward appearance but looks directly into the heart. Perhaps then more of us would shut up and sit down.

    • Rene Yoshi

      I really appreciate your basic description of legalism— adding to or subtracting from the simplicity of Scripture. I hope I wasn’t being legalistic by adding a bit to the passage in Luke 18 for emphasis. I don’t think that’s what you mean. You mean like adding man-made rules and religious traditions as if they were Scripture, right?

      I am reminded of the passage in Colossians 2 and find it a bit humorous that legalists recite verse 21, “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” as a command from God without realizing Paul is speaking against that man-made ordinance and the heart behind it.

      I have been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. In it he writes:

      “[The Pharisees’] morality was legalistic and bourgeois, a matter of reward and punishment: God loved and rewarded those who kept the law and hated and punished those who did not.”

      Having been a ‘Pharisee’ myself, so to speak, I understand why they think that way, because parts of the Bible can make it seem that way. But when the Bible is taken as a whole, it reveals that God is not only a just Judge, but a loving and merciful Father. “He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

      Thank you, Scott. 🙂

  • Heather Mertens @ 40YearWanderer

    Grace is the most beautiful thing next to salvation. Beautiful post, Rene. 🙂

    I refollowed this blog to get the emails. I realized I was only getting your photog ones. My reader is annoying. 😉

  • T

    I shared this on facebook because it is so good. I found you from another blog I follow and am so glad I did, I really liked this post. I used to run into this stuff when I was not a Christian and it is why I did not want any part of church. Now I have been a Christian for about 3 1/2 years and I also go to a church that believes like you wrote here in love and grace. If not for that I would still be unsaved, avoiding church, and still addicted to alcohol. Great post.

    • Rene Yoshi

      Thank you so much for visiting and sharing this post. I’m so glad it blessed you. I just read your About page and am excited to meet another sister in the Lord. I have the story of your journey cued up and am looking forward to reading it later today. Chores first. [chuckle]

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