I WONDER: Can it be that many Christians have lost the freedom that comes with grace because we have lost the ability to acknowledge our sins and therefore cannot really experience or express our forgiveness? … We are no longer certain of how to converse about the brokenness that affects us one and all. While many maintain that the last century has been quite arguably the most evil age in human history, even some secular observers have noted that we no longer have a working vocabulary to discuss it. …
The problem seems especially acute of late, but warnings were sounded generations ago – especially in the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who coined the term “cheap grace”:
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle. … It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth. … no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.
In our own time, cheap grace seems to be expressed mainly in terms of “acceptance” and “tolerance.” All are beautiful in their own way; each and every one is fine just the way he or she is. The problem with this kind of language is that it is demonstrably false. People already know, deep down, that they are flawed, that their lives are full of misdeeds and missed opportunities, that they have fallen short not only of the glory of God but also of their own expectation. We experience sin, which is to say we sin and are sinned against – but we have lost a way to talk about it. And if we cannot talk about it, we cannot be freed of the experience or its consequences.
– Thomas R. Steagald
Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn
From pages 76-77 of Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus by Thomas R. Steagald. Copyright © 2010 by Thomas R. Steagald. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
Do you find it difficult to talk about your sins? Share your thoughts.
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1, NRSV
This Week: pray for those who lack access to clean water. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section below.
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This week we remember: Polycarp (February 23).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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