Does Grace Enable Irresponsibility?   2 comments

Perhaps those who are concerned about my emphasis on grace are worried that I may encourage irresponsibility.  Some folks seem inclined to let things slide, choose the easy way, care too little for the concerns of others.  We think they need a “kick in the pants.”  I use “seem” to describe them because we really don’t know the issues they are struggling with, the energy, insight, support they do or do not have and so forth.  The closer I am to them, and the more perceptive I am at understanding others deeply, the more clearly I may be able to see what is at work inside them, but if they are clueless about themselves, I can easily be misled.  It is common to confuse fear, shame, depression, fatigue and the like with laziness, and the last thing such folks need is a kick.

As I see it, those who are truly irresponsible create two problems, and these can be profound depending on the level of their negligence.  The first is what it does to them, and the second is what it does to others (and their relationships).  When we say that these folks “take advantage of grace,” I think we mean that grace allows them to be irresponsible (does not force them to be responsible).  But when they choose this course, they are retreating from grace rather than embracing it, and the result, far from being to their happiness, is to their unhappiness.  They do not “get away” with it because sin always has its natural consequences–sin is always a harmful choice, to the ones acting as well as to everyone whom they touch (that’s why God warns us against it).  Grace can only bring redemption to such a situation if it is embraced, and this can only be done by faith, which is to say the slackers now see things God’s way.  Given this vantage point, I think we would pity the irresponsible, and if we have some role to play in their lives and are motivated by love, we may wish to warn them from this folly and invite them back to grace.

The second problem with the neglectful is their impact on others and their relationships, and this is where many feel grace is inadequate and the law must be applied.  What do we mean by “law” and “grace” in this context.  Is there something one does that the other does not?  If law is about restriction and grace is about freedom, then our call to apply law is to bring force to bear, either the force of a guilty conscience (say, by rebuking him) or the force of retribution or punishment (say, by taking his keys).  But why do we think these actions are connected to law and disconnected from grace?  Is it not possible for grace to stir the conscience or give a wake-up call of negative consequences?  To my mind, the whole distinction lies in what motivation prompts the act.

It seems to me that I turn to the obligation and punishment of law not from concern for the slouch, but from concern for the law (that the law is respected, obeyed) or concern for the “victim” (who may be me).  It often seems to us that in order to side with the victim, we must side against the negligent.  Thankfully, the grace of God does not need to love one less in order to love the other fully.  He wants the best for all concerned, and he will do what is best for all concerned.  If grace sends negative consequences on the irresponsible, it is not because God takes umbrage and is punishing them, but because he knows this is the best he has to give, the choice of extravagent love, not love withheld.  It is his invitation to redemption.  The exile of Israelis from their land is a prime example of this “tough love.”  Far from this being an act of God’s impatience and  abandonment, it was the richness of his love at work to restore them to their true selves and reawaken their immensely fulfilling love relationship with him.


Posted April 19, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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2 responses to “Does Grace Enable Irresponsibility?

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  1. One’s concern or not for another is not always guided by their love, concern for these so called lazy people, but what they themselves want out of a situation and such people will use manipulation, sin to get what they believe should be gained out of it. Yes, motivation is the driving force. Have learned through abuse….you are on your own kid.

  2. Yes, the world can be very brutal. Thankfully our God is different (if we can believe it).

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