Because of the default Christian position of niceness, Christians have to be careful when defining words like forgiveness, love, and compassion lest these words become yet other ways to be nice. Forgiveness always costs, love is sometimes as hard as nails, and compassion can degenerate into another form of do-goodism if one isn’t careful.
It is no small thing to be loved when you’re unlovable, to be forgiven the unforgivable, and to be supported when you’ve done nothing to deserve it. That’s the gospel. And that’s why free sins are so important. It’s the good news that while there are those who might sacrifice for a good man or woman, “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [that would be us!]. . . . God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8).
Religion can make you weird. It can also make you afraid. If God is a police officer at best and a child abuser at worst, you had better be careful, and careful will kill your freedom. If the work of Christ depends on your faithfulness, obedience, and purity, and you must work to maintain your witness, maintaining will kill your freedom. If there are angels piling up the good stuff you do on one side of some gigantic scale somewhere in heaven and demons piling up the bad stuff on the other side, you’ll panic as the scale starts tipping in the wrong direction. That will make you quite meticulous about what you say, think, and do . . . and meticulous will kill your freedom.
Let me show you why Christians should be (even if they aren’t) dangerous. What happens if you dare to be free?
If you have free sins, you don’t have to wear a mask anymore.
Jesus said, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3). That always scared me to death. The potential shame is crushing.
Well, it’s crushing unless I have already revealed the secrets. For much of my life as a professional religionist, I’ve worked very hard to hide behind the mask of goodness, purity, and religiosity. I finally decided that I just couldn’t do it anymore and started telling people the truth. When I did, they smiled and called me “authentic” and “real.” Truth is, I’m not authentic and real . . . I’m scared. If I tell you who I really am, you won’t be so shocked when you find out.
Any Christian who can’t say to those who curse him or her, “You don’t know nothin’! If you knew the truth, you would be even more shocked!” hasn’t understood what the gospel is about and how freeing it is.
If you have free sins, you don’t have to please anybody but Jesus.
In Acts 4, the disciples are arrested. Luke tells us that the religious leaders saw their boldness and figured they had “been with Jesus.” They told the disciples to back off, and the disciples replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (vv. 19–20).
Please note the connection between “being with Jesus” and the disciples’ boldness in the face of death and persecution. If Jesus loves you unconditionally and he is pleased, you don’t have to give a rip about pleasing anybody else no matter how much power he or she has. That’s why Christians can be so dangerous.
If you have free sins, you are free from the need to be perfect.
Scripture says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2). Isaiah the prophet tells us that God said, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
If it’s already done, why do we keep trying to do it? Because we don’t really believe it’s done, and this makes us neurotic. A clear indication of this particular neurosis is a bent toward perfectionism. And that perfectionism is so obsessive we hardly have time to do anything but try harder until we get it right. Not only that—a perfectionist works hard at admonishing others to be perfect. That causes the perfectionist’s sickness, like a cold, to spread its germs everywhere. But that’s not the worst part. Our perfectionism doesn’t allow us to say what we think, to speak truth that would offend, or to risk anything for the kingdom.
If I have free sins, I recognize my value to the One who assigns value.
With all the humility I can muster, I’m pretty incredible . . . and that makes me dangerous. When Moses asked God his name in Exodus 3, God said that he was the great “I Am.” Well, “I am” too. So are you. And not only that, but God has gone to a lot of trouble to show us just how very valuable we are.
That is healthy. What isn’t healthy is the neurotic, religious focus on becoming valuable and “important to the kingdom.”
I’ve expended so much effort on being important, respected and valuable. I’ve given up trying to be better (it wasn’t working anyway), doing it right (I was hitting it about 49 percent of the time, and that was more accidental than anything else), and wanting everybody to be impressed by my faithfulness (they knew the truth but were kind enough not to tell me). I found out that it really isn’t about me and my faithfulness, perfection, and obedience. It’s about Another, who is perfect in his faithfulness and obedience.
That would be Jesus.
Jesus told me he likes me and that I should go out and play . . . and work and dance and sing and laugh. Jesus said that I could do all of that with the sure confidence that I had all the free sins I would ever need. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends” (John 15:13–14).
People who know they are valuable to God—to the only One who counts—are dangerous. Value comes from the realization that if all my sins are free, I must be privileged royalty.
Adapted from Steve’s book, Three Free Sins
Published by Howard Books, copyright 2012 by Steve Brown. Used by permission.