It’s absurd. The accusations of “Antinomian” and “Hyper-Grace” that we keep hearing about ourselves and many of our grace-centered friends is disappointing. Our commentaries, creeds, church constitutions, bylaws, and theological statements may champion sola gratia but move it from paper into real life and it scares the hell out of us. It scares us because in real life, grace can’t be tamed. It can’t be managed or balanced and we so desperately want to manage and balance it. Move it from a theological treatise or a doctrinal statement into something that goes deep into our souls and takes over from the inside out, and we begin to panic because we’re losing control. We want grace to be reasonable, balanced, and within easy reach of our supposed control. But a tamed grace is no grace at all. It’s bondage masquerading as freedom. Grace is wild, uncontrollable and always finds its way to all the wrong people at all the wrong times and in all the wrong circumstances.
Here’s what saddens me; the people we’re hearing these accusations from have never asked us what we believe. They’ve talked to others about us, but they’ve never taken the time to talk with us about our understanding of grace. They prefer instead to stand far off and cause dissension and misunderstanding. I guess it’s easier to just dismiss us altogether and sling mud from afar and label us Antinomian than it is to have a conversation. It’s cleaner that way. The assumption is that we have a low view of God’s law because we have a high view of God’s grace. But that’s not true.
In my performance days of yesteryear I was convinced I had a high view of God’s law because God’s law was all we talked about. I thought my knowledge of the rules and preoccupation with them meant that I had a high view of God’s law. But I was deceived. I had a low view of God’s law for the simple reason that I thought I could pull it off. But I discovered that a preoccupation with God’s law doesn’t produce a high view of God’s law, it produces a high view of moralism, legalism, and self-righteousness. It produces a high view of one’s self, masquerading as a high view of God’s law. It produces modern day Pharisees and bullies who think they have a right and duty to speak law, shame, and condemnation into the lives of others whom they view as not pulling it off like they think they are. It takes broken younger brothers and turns them into self-righteous older brothers. They are sad slaves.
But it was grace that gave me a high view of God’s law. Grace stopped me dead in my tracks and put me on a new course. Grace alone teaches us to renounce ungodliness while simultaneously empowering us to live accordingly.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12)
For years I was preoccupied with rules. I was chasing every command in Scripture to the best of my ability and judging myself and others every time one of us failed to measure up. I proudly wore my obedience as a merit badge of honor so others could see how pleased God must be with me. That’s exhausting and it kills your joy.