Perhaps you have heard the story of a tightrope walker incarcerated in a Russian concentration camp. When Stalin died and pressure eased up on prisoners, he performed for his fellow inmates. Afterward, a rabbi asked how he could walk on such a thin rope without falling off. At first the performer hesitated to answer, but following much prompting he finally revealed his secret: “I fix my eye on where I’m going, and never even think about falling.”
I’m convinced that believing the Bible’s teaching on grace is a lot like tightrope walking. Back when I wrote The Grace Awakening, I prepared myself for the responses I would hear to such teaching. “Won’t some people take it to an extreme?” people asked. “Won’t some take unfair liberties if we tell them the message of grace?” “Won’t an awakening of grace lead to the abuse of grace?”
The late Welsh minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that preaching grace is not only risky, but the fact that some take it to unwise extremes proves that we are preaching the true grace of God. Some will take advantage of such teaching. They will misrepresent it. They will go so far as to promote the wrong idea that you can go on sinning as much as you like. The idea of grace has always been controversial. It brings grace-abusers as well as grace-killers out from under the rocks! Paul met them head-on in the first century; we must do the same in the twenty-first.
All who embrace grace become “free indeed.” Free from what? Free to walk in the heights without fear. Free from self. Free from shame and condemnation. Free from the tyranny of others’ opinions, expectations, and demands. Free to obey. Free to love. Free to forgive others as well as ourselves. Free to allow others to be who they are—different. Free to live beyond the limitations of human effort. Free to serve and glorify Christ!
Because of grace we have been freed from sin . . . from its slavery, its bondage in our attitude, in our urges, and in our actions. But having been freed and now living by grace, we can actually go too far, set aside all self-control, and take our liberty to such an extreme that we again serve sin. Yet that isn’t liberty at all; it’s license. And knowing of that possibility, many opt for the less risky ground of legalism lest they be tempted to live irresponsibly. Bad choice!
Freedom scares us. Many prefer to have someone tell them what to do and when, how to believe and why. The result is the tragic state of perpetual spiritual adolescence.
Certainly we have to watch out for the strong gusts that will occasionally blow like mad. But we must focus on Jesus Christ rather than on falling if we hope to enjoy our walk on the tightrope of grace.