Many believers feel like our Christian growth has become stunted or we feel like we have hit a roadblock . We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, we pull away from God because we subconsciously see him as a scorekeeper who records our failures and successes on a score sheet. We believe that while God tallies our defects, he hangs his head in disappointment.
Christianity is unique in that God’s mercy is shown through his justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Bible states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ, and that only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice does God extend His mercy to undeserving sinners.
The lyrics of Amazing Grace say it all:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
What does grace sound like? It’s the sound of Jesus saying, “Your sins are forgiven!”
I truly feel that we believe in God’s grace—in theory, however we have lost the ability to apply it in our daily lives. God gives us His grace, willingly, no matter what we’ve done. Jesus wants to come to him as we are. We come to Him as ragamuffins—dirty and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, and calls us to his with a love that burns brightly and constantly. It is only when we truly embrace God’s grace, that we can bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and to call them to repent. He came for the beat-up, and burnt-out,” the marginalized folks to whom Jesus ministered: the children, the ill, the tax collectors, the women. In other words, the ragamuffins.
While the powerful and religious elite challenged him, Jesus embraced and healed and fed the needs of the ragamuffins. Jesus delivered love, healing, and, most of all, grace.
What is Grace you ask? Grace is defined as “the freely given and unmerited favor and love of God.” We have “twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal scorekeeper.” In reality, the grace God offers us is immeasurable.
While Christ did indeed die for sinners, He also died as a demonstration of God’s righteousness, to showcase His justice. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says: “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
In other words, God didn’t immediately punish sin before the time of Christ; rather, extended mercy. The end result is that, by the sacrificial death of Jesus, everyone who trusts in Him is saved from God’s wrath and instead experiences His grace and mercy (Romans 8:1).
I’m not saying that we are to just do whatever we want. God will judge us when our time is through. A couple of illustrations of that are:
1 Peter 4:5
but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.
“If we are to evangelize a person, then we must say to him or her: “You are loved by God in the Lord Jesus. He loves you for who you are, not for what you are”
I love this quote by Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, “I found deep comfort in realizing that Jesus loves even me, a ragamuffin, just as I am.”