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Cheap Grace & Same-Sex Marriage

April 10th, 2013 8 comments

cheap grace 1

As I watched and read the social media banter surrounding the recent Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, I was appalled by the theological shallowness and simplistic moralizing coming from the hearts and mouths of those in my relational circle who profess to follow Christ. Much of the sermonizing was simplistic in that it failed to make the important distinction between personal ethics and public policy. On a relational level we are called to love everyone, including our enemies (Luke 6:27).

While this is often easier said than done, I think all Christians would agree with the principle. Are we called to love those who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle? Yes. Is their sin any different from the person committing adultery, fornication or any other sexual sin? No. God opposes all forms of sexual anarchy. But let’s be certain about one thing – it’s all sin. And sin dishonors God and destroys people.

The good news is Jesus died for sin and sinners (Romans 5:8). If we confess our sin, He has agreed to forgive us, cleanse us, and free us (I John 1:9). That is the good news of the gospel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t seeing much life-giving, gospel advice on Facebook; just a lot of what Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.”

Best selling author and pastor, Tim Keller, explains this phrase with great cultural clarity:

“By the time of Hitler’s ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance – ‘God forgives; that’s his job.’ But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice…Many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice…Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace” – a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life.”

In the words of German pastor and Nazi martyr, Dietrich Bonhoffer,

“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

So what does all this have to do with the current public policy debate on same-sex marriage? I tried to connect the dots in my recent Facebook post:

When you claim to “love Jesus” but you promote a lifestyle which He condemned and you seek to re-define something which He already defined you are deceived. In doing so, you make a mockery out of the faith you profess.

What America needs is not a “cheap grace” that comfortably fits within the politically correct parameters of moral relativism and religious pluralism. As Tim Keller wisely noted, “This will never change anyone’s life.” On a relational level, we need Christians to return to the message of “amazing grace,” pointing the sexually confused and addicted to the powerful, life-changing message of the cross. On a public policy level, agree with Jesus’ definition of marriage and hold your elected representatives accountable to honor God’s transcendent laws over and above the evolving opinions of those who have no moral compass.