All or Nothing
1 John 2:1,2 I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have… Jesus Christ… He is the propitiation for our sins.
Once upon a time, I had a coach whom we called All or Nothing. He was a man of extremes. When on the road, if we wanted the radio on, it got turned up so loud we could not hear our own thoughts. If we wanted the volume down, it got turned off. The heat was on high enough to make a sauna or the windows were open, in January. All or nothing. I often do this with my view of God. In the context of this passage, I do it with sin.
I tend to err in extremes. In one direction, I become overly legalistic, forgetting all about grace. I look at the destruction that others cause and I look at verses like Romans 8:7. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. I see deeds of the flesh and I think, lost. That person is lost. They cannot know God and act like that. When looking at myself, I may get very down on myself, thinking, I am such a failure. How is it possible that God is working in me? In my focus on the failure, I forget that Jesus died for me and that I am forever forgiven and eternally free. I insist that the path to God is in following specific rules and if I step off the narrow path, I am lost.
The other direction in which I err is to embrace cheap grace, insisting that forgiveness means I can do whatever I want. If God has forgiven me and I am eternally saved, then the strings have been cut between action and consequence, so I am free to follow the desires of my flesh. I use God’s grace as justification for my own destructive desires. I have ridden this cheap grace train straight into profound destruction and I do not care to do it again.
John, as the loving father, strikes the right balance. John says, Do not sin, but if/when you do, remember that Jesus Christ has paid your debt already. He says that I am not to take lightly my failures, but I am not to wallow in the shame of them either. I am not to condemn to hell those who fall, even when it is spectacular. I am also not to insist that failure is fine because, we all do it, it’s no big deal.
It is a big deal when I follow self and cause destruction, but God always forgives. I am to insist that I daily deny self and follow God. I am also to understand that while I am in this flesh, I will not do it perfectly. God forgives my failures and says, I still love you, keep following me.