When Grace Goes Wrong
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Psalms 7:8-9, “The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. (9) Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous– you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!”
When I was a kid, I used to visit my grandparents each summer. They were diligent church attenders — conservative, Bible-believing people. My grandfather was a godly man and I can remember hearing him pray. I still have some of the books from his library with his handwriting in them. His weakness was that he let my grandmother rule him. This small, very short lady dominated him with power and control. What grandma wanted, she got. But that is another story.
I would go to church with them. Sunday school, worship service, then back again for Sunday evening service, and again for Wednesday night prayer service. It was quite common, especially in the evening services, for the service to be opened up for “testimonies.” Perhaps some of you know what I am talking about. Anyone who was so “led” could stand and share how they became a Christian or how the Lord was working in their life, and so on. Some were, I think, sincere. Others, well, one had to wonder if they simply enjoyed the attention.
And in these testimony times, sin was often magnified. A person might describe their days as a drunk, or as a card-playing, cigarette-smoking sinner, and then how Christ delivered them from it. I once heard a lady announce that her lips had not tasted a single drop of alcohol in over 30 years, and the congregation broke out in “amens.” The people who had the most colorful testimonies seemed to be the favorites.
It seems to me that these kinds of things lay the groundwork in the church for “grace” gone wrong. Why? Because the focus is not on the Lord, but on us. I cannot say that Christ was exalted in those services — but I do know that the people got a whole lot of attention. Think about it. Why can ANY of us speak of how our lives have been changed — and yes, from some pretty evil things in which we used to walk according to the ruler of this world? Why? It is only because of Christ. He is the only reason God has been able to show us grace. We were not merely forgiven with a wave of the Lord’s hand. Oh no — it took the precious blood of The Lamb. Apart from Christ, there is no forgiveness. No grace. No mercy. Only the grinding, exact, holy and righteous justice of God in response to His violated Law.
Which brings us to what I mean by “grace gone wrong.” It is a Christless grace. It is grace with no blood shed. It is a wink and a nod with no Cross. And it is a fantasy, because God’s holiness and perfect justice demand that every sin, every debt be paid in full. For those who repent and believe in Christ, Jesus becomes that payment. For those who reject Him, there is only condemnation. And that is how it should be.
Therefore, when Christians see that a husband, for example, is abusing his wife and children — when his wife comes to us seeking our help — and we pride ourselves in how “gracious and merciful” we are when we simply nod and wink and send her back home with instructions to forgive her tormentor and try to do better, what we are practicing is most certainly NOT grace. For wherever true grace is given, sin has been paid for by Christ through repentance and faith. We have no right to demand that a victim grant grace to an unrepentant abuser when God Himself has not done so. Let us never forget that the grace, grace, marvelous grace that pardons and cleanses us within is a grace that is only extended to those who hear and obey Christ.