Getting Away With It…
Eclectic. That’s how I’d describe my music taste. I learned it from Sister Act 2 (you know, the bit where she is describing her taste in music to the misunderstood ghetto kids) over a decade ago and it has served me well for many years as a defense of my more dubious music likings.
I was recently informed by one person, after revealing my most recent CD purchase (Alphabeat; check out tracks 2, 3, and 5 for sheer pop goodness) that I had the music taste of a slightly effeminate man. Of course, I’m sure that you are all aware that this is not the case. I like a myriad of manly musicians – Oasis, Jonny Cash, and Elton John are all good examples. I just have an eclectic taste.
Recently, my eclectic manliness has lead to one song circulating in my head, over and over. In fact, it is wrong to say that the whole song has been circulating in my head; the truth is that one line from the song has been burned into my brain, and I end up singing it repeatedly and then mumbling my way through the rest of the song once I get bored with my minimalist take on the piece.
The lyric that has held my attention for so long is found in the chorus:
“Grace, you’re getting away with it”
In his radio friendly effort, Will Young, perhaps quite accidentally, has touched upon an aspect of the Christian faith that many have difficulty in comprehending, and some find to be an outrage: Grace.
When Christians talk of Grace, they are (hopefully) talking of God’s unmerited favour toward people. The Bible clearly teaches that God freely offers forgiveness to a fallen people that have done nothing (and could never do anything) to earn or deserve it (Romans 3:23-24). This is the ‘Good News’ that Christians so often speak of, everybody can be forgiven! However, as great as that sounds at first, with an incorrect understanding it can soon become bittersweet.
In my early High School days, I would occasionally spend my dinner time engaging in the exhilariting and adrenaline boosting pastime of ‘Year 11 Baiting’. The game is simple: Join a number of other year 7 friends and venture on down to the year 11 block. The year elevens would wait paitiently until just one year seven took a step over some unseen line; a line calculated mentally by every year eleven to be the point that a year 7 was close enough to capture should a chase ensue and the year 7 turned tail. Before this boundary, we year 7’s would be the bravest of all men ever to walk the earth – but once broken, chaos ensued; The year 11’s would move, en-masse, in a terrifying crowd of malice, seeking the one year 7 close enough to capture and ‘discipline’. The year 7’s would run, squealing, desperately hoping that they weren’t the one, laughing with relief when they realised they had made it to safety.
We got away with it.
The relief was palpable. We loved to get away with it. Most people do. You deserved something bad, but you escaped the penalty.
What a feeling.
Years later, I would join the game again, only to find myself in the year 11 camp. The rules were the same, but this time the results had a different effect. It was devestating, outrageous even, just plain wrong, if a round of baiting ended without the capture of an insolent year 7.
They got away with it.
It’s not right. They were calling us allsorts. They should have been taught a lesson. That kind of thing needs to be dealt with.
And so we arrive at two difficult issues regarding Grace. The first is our own hypocrisy. We thank God for our own forgiveness, underserving as we are, but we wonder at the wisdom of God in forgiving the person that hurt us. Our forgiveness is an amazing gift, their forgiveness is an injustice, we may think. To deal with this, we should all look again to Paul’s words in Romans 3:23 where he points out that all of us have fallen short of the requirements of God; the distance by which we fall is irrelevant – everyone is in the same boat. The need for our forgiveness is no less weighty than that of those that have hurt us.
The second difficult issue springs out of the first, but does have some grounding in a concern over God’s character. In hearing of God’s Grace, which he freely offers to all men, you may find yourself questioning the justice of God in offering forgiveness for even the most horrendously evil acts that this earth has seen. Murders, genocides, rapes and molestations, the list goes on, where is the justice in this forgiveness? What about the victims? Doesn’t Grace make a mockery of their hurt? Of your hurt? How can God just let the perpetrators get away with it?
The answer is, they don’t get away with it. You don’t get away with it. God doesn’t sweep the cries of Sin’s victims under the carpet. No sin goes unpunished. All sin is dealt with.
Grace just changes how it is dealt with. The wages of sin is death, Paul says in Romans 6:23, describing the gravity and seriousness of sin in the mind of God. Our sin has a punishment attached, and the punishment is death and ultimately Hell (Mark 9:46-48). Grace doesn’t abolish the punishment, but moves it elsewhere, and we can see the where if we continue reading our original passage in Romans 3
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Paul declares that Jesus served as a propitiation for us, that is, He satisfied the righteous wrath of God against all of the evil and injustice of the world, so that God can be just and forgive sin; so He can be Judge and Justifier.
Sin is dealt with in one of two ways. If we reject His offer of forgiveness, our sin is dealt with in us. This is is a weighty, serious, and terrifying reality. Let me be very clear on this, for I greatly fear misleading you: God is Holy and His demand is that we are to be Holy too (Leviticus 19:2); He will not stand for sin. As we have already read in Romans 3, all of us have fallen short of this standard of holiness. Indeed, the Bible goes further to say that we have actually rebelled against God, setting ourselves up as His enemies (James 4:4). It may surprise you to know that Jesus spoke of this. In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus uses a parable to talk of a people rebelling against God, declaring that they ‘do not want [God] to reign over [them]‘ (verse 14). This outright refusal to submit to the rule of the Creator of all things ends with their destruction (verse 27). This is not just a one-off verse. Scripture is very clear that if we reject Jesus, we face the eternal and awful wrath of a Holy God (Hebrews 10:26-27). Sin is dealt with in us.
However, if we accept the forgiveness of God and give him his rightful place in charge of our life, our sin is dealt with in Jesus. The wrath of the Holy God for the evil we have done is directed at Jesus on the cross. He bears the punishment. He brings the justice. He is the reason that we can stand before God justified.
The Apostle Paul was a feared Christian killer before his conversion. God’s wrath against those murders didn’t cease when Paul became a Christian – His wrath was poured out on Jesus instead. Let us not forget the high cost of our salvation and forgiveness; the slaughter of God in the flesh, Jesus. None of our sin is just ignored or wiped away, it’s full weight was borne by Jesus at the cross. If you were hurt by another and are concerned about how God could ignore your suffering, He doesn’t; He punished Jesus for it.
They don’t get away with it, because Jesus was punished for them.
I don’t get away with it, because Jesus was punished for me.
You don’t get away with it, because Jesus was punished for you.
Grace to you.