The “how much more” of God has always been misunderstood – not just by a few Christ-followers, but by all of us. Sure, we misunderstand God’s lavish grace in varying degrees, but not one of us “gets it” fully. Every few months a friend will ask me directly – “if God forgives us, why not sin?” Ponder for a moment the assumptions behind this question. This question assumes that abundant life and fullness of joy are found in sinning as opposed to not sinning. Of course, few disciples of Jesus would admit they believe such a thing, and yet, each one of us harbors bits and pieces of it. I’m sad to say that we haven’t fully comprehended the “how much more” of God in the depths of our heart.
And so today, I’d like to reflect on another recurring phrase in scripture – “by no means!” – a phrase that Paul uses ten times in his letter to the Romans. Paul repeatedly uses this phrase to rebuke people who have dangerously misunderstood the “how much more” of God. Consider some of the questions the Christians at Rome were wrestling with:
If God’s grace is so abundant, why aren’t more people faithful? Does their faithlessness mean that God can’t be faithful? To which Paul responds, By no means!! (Rom 3:3-4)
If God’s grace is so abundant, isn’t it hypocritical for God to punish us? By no means!! (Rom 3:5)
If God’s grace is so abundant, is the law of God worthless? By no means!! (Rom 3:31)
If God’s grace is so abundant, wouldn’t it be good to sin as much as we can so that God’s grace may be made more evident? By no means!! (Rom 6:1) (FYI, if you’ve been taught that there’s no such thing as a dumb question I’m inclined to offer this question as an exception to the rule.)
These are just a few examples of how the Christians at Rome misunderstood God’s lavish grace. But what about us? Where do we misunderstand? What questions do Christians in America wrestle with?
If God’s grace is so abundant, …
Is it OK if we don’t take God that seriously?
Is it OK to have contempt for people of other races and cultures and socio-economic statuses?
Is it OK to worship God and wealth?
Is it OK to feel superior to people of other faiths and demoninations?
Is it OK to be rude or pushy if that’s what it takes to “get things done?”
BY NO MEANS!!