Many of those of us who are Christians tend to focus on the grace of God, how God loves us and forgives us of our sins. Yet this truth can be overdone. Some even take this concept so far that they think and say that God will forgive us no matter what we do wrong because his grace “is sufficient.” And some claim God has already forgiven us of all sins that we will commit in the future. They may explain that God’s grace is greater than our sinning ways. They may say, “God will never leave me or forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31.6; Joshua 1.5; Hebrew 13.5). But that should be interpreted in context.
I believe that in Christianity, the past fifty years or more has been a age called “easy believism.” That is, I think an unbalanced attitude on this subject can border on antinomianism, which means we Christians can sin all we want and God’s grace, and thus his forgiveness, will be sufficient to keep us in the grace of God and thus always in fellowship with him. NOT SO! That is an irresponsibility.
The other aspect of a two-way relationship is the other person’s responsibility in that relationship. Thus, the more correct way for Christians to view their relationship with God through Christ is set forth in the caption of that famous painting of a man and woman dancing, which says, “it takes two to tango.” To say that this is putting oneself under the law, thus works, is a misunderstanding of mostly the apostle Paul’s teaching on that subject. The so-called “new perspective on Paul”–which terminology was coined by my now deceased friend, New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn–is I think the more correct way to view Paul’s teaching on that subject.
The Johannine Jesus set forth our responsibility to him in our relationship with him and God the Father in the following sayings:
- “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (John 14.21 NRSV).
- “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15.10).
- “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15.14).
So, God has reached out to all humanity by offering his Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross. By believing this with all our hearts, we encounter the grace of God and enter into a relationship with God and Christ. But we must be responsible in keeping ourselves in the love of God by doing, to some extent, Jesus’ commandments. For, we learn of the Johannine Jesus earlier, “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth, and the truth will make you free'” (John 8.31). That’s our human responsibility–to learn Jesus’ teachings and continue in them.
So, those of us who are Christians, let us do our part in being responsible in our relationship with God, continuing in our most holy faith. And we will do this by keeping ourselves in the love of God. How so? By keeping Jesus’ commandments.
Yet, we all sin sometimes. But when we do, “If we confess our sins [to God and one another], he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9). Praise the Lord for his mercy and grace toward us.