Friday, August 8, 2014

Amnesty

E.C. Haskell sent out this "thought for today:"

Grace:
Many pray for forgiveness while in reality claim amnesty. Consequently our worship is cold [why thank God for a grace we don't need?] and our faith is weak.

It is an interesting idea that amnesty is an "intentional overlooking" - usually by a government regarding some sort of widespread crime. For example, there is sometimes "tax amnesty" for cheaters if they make some minimum payment. After the Vietnam War there was a general amnesty for those who dodged the draft. Some conservatives are adamant against giving amnesty to illegal aliens living in the United States.

The suggestion in the E.C.'s "thought" is that forgiveness is more than amnesty. I'm not sure that distinction holds up in general English usage. Amnesty and forgiveness are listed as synonyms. Of the two, forgiveness seems to be the more general term.

But the underlying point is valid - sometimes take God's grace for granted.

Maybe it is that amnesty is general and forgiveness is personal. People have largely forgotten about the holiness and judgment of God. They have become functional universalists who believe God has given a general amnesty to everyone for all sin. But the forgiveness of God is personal - offered to individuals who come to him in faith and repentance. Perhaps if we reflected on the personal aspect of forgiveness we would be more sensitive about our sins.

Maybe our carelessness is because amnesty usually means there is no penalty. God's forgiveness, however, is based on God's atonement through Jesus Christ. We are forgiven our sins, but Jesus took our punishment on himself. Perhaps if we reflected on the tremendous cost for our forgiveness we would be more grateful for our salvation.

Maybe it is just our sense of entitlement. We don't think our sins are all that bad. We think we have done God a favor by choosing to be on his side. In our minds we think, "Of course God saved me - what's not to love about me?" Perhaps if we thought about the infinite crimes we have committed in our rebellion against our infinitely good Creator we would be more grateful for his gracious salvation.

Our sins are serious. We deserve nothing but hell. God, the righteous judge, did not just throw out our case and acquit us of our crimes against him. He provided a substitute who took our punishment, paid our penalty, so that we could be forgiven.

Grace doesn't mean there was no cost - it only means that the cost was borne by another. Thank God for his indescribable gift. Don't take God's grace for granted.

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