“To cheapen the grace of God that always comes with blood on it”

plantingaMy sermon this Sunday, whose text is James 1:13-18, focuses on sin and temptation. On the last page of his book about sin, Neal Plantinga warns against overemphasizing sin at the expense of grace. “To concentrate on our rebellion… is to forget that the center of the Christian religion is not our sin but our Savior. To speak of sin without grace is to minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, and the hope of Shalom.”

But the opposite problem—grace without sin—is far more prevalent in the church circles in which I run. That’s why I especially appreciate this last paragraph of his book:

But to speak of grace without sin is surely no better. To do this is to trivialize the cross of Jesus Christ, to skate past all the struggling by good people down the ages to forgive, accept, and rehabilitate sinners, including themselves, and therefore to cheapen the grace of God that always comes to us with blood on it. What had we thought the ripping and writhing in Golgotha were all about? To speak of grace without looking squarely at these realities, without painfully honest acknowledgment of our own sin and its effects, is to shrink grace to mere embellishment of the music of creation, to shrink it down to a mere grace note. In short, for the Christian church… to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the lethal reality of sin is to cut the nerve of the gospel. For the sober truth is that without full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting.[†]

No: I’d rather join the struggle of the saints before me to “forgive, accept, and rehabilitate sinners,” including—always including—myself. We live in an age in which many people, in order to perceive the beauty of the gospel, need to be reawakened to the ugliness of their sins.

Even writing that last sentence feels deeply countercultural, if not downright unkind, but—sorry—you can’t have one without the other.

Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 199.

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