Hebrews 11 is a passage in the Bible that is often headlined “Heroes of Faith.” We know they were not perfect heroes as we read their lives in the Bible. Yet the power of God’s grace enabled them to overcome their imperfections and take steps of faith that advanced God’s Kingdom.
Have you noticed however that in our culture in the past decade we have seen the rise of the antihero or antiheroine in popular shows like The Sopranoes, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Game of Thrones just to name a few. In these types of stories the central character is not a traditionally good or brave hero. They often possess dark personality traits because they are flawed and broken. They make unpleasant compromises of what would traditionally be seen as heroic. Apparently our culture today loves these types of characters because they are getting much of the airtime. Why do we love them and keep tuning in? Do we want to see them rise above their flaws and affirm a distinction between right and wrong or does watching flawed antiheroes make us feel better about our own brokenness and imperfection?
Grace Justifying Antiheroes
There are growing pockets of the Christian community embracing a false grace. It isn’t the grace that Paul says “instructs us to give up ungodly living” Titus 2:11-12 For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people. (12) That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world. This false grace seems to attempt to make us feel better and content with our imperfections with little motivation to rise above them.
I read an account of someone recently that at first I wondered which way he was heading with the idea of grace, hero or antihero. “We’re getting to a point in culture where we don’t hide that (imperfections) as much anymore. I mean, in our own realities, we are the main characters of our own stories — and yet, we’re pretty screwed up. Now, to be fair, I can’t speak for you, because I don’t know you like you know you. But I can speak for me. And I’m pretty screwed up.
I make stupid choices, sometimes. There are days where I can be a real a-hole to some people. Some nights, I can go a little too far with the bottle. There are days that I don’t always want to pray, or talk to God. There are times when I accidentally hurt the people that I love the most. It’s just life. And I’m not all put together. To paraphrase Paul, “I have not yet arrived.” (Phil. 3:12)
But, I no longer hide the fact that I’m not all put together, because I don’t have to. There is such immense freedom in exclaiming the fact that, while I am still yet a sinner, Christ loves me…However, it’s still going to happen on a daily basis. There are still going to be those days and nights where I just throw caution to the wind and give in. There are still going to be times where I consciously or subconsciously don’t do the right thing.
Sin is always going to be a part of us while we live here on this earth. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is. The beautiful thing about the Gospel of Grace is that we no longer have to hide our faces in shame. Some people think that not being ashamed of being a sinner is a bad thing. It’s not!…We know how screwed up we are, and we only assume that you’re just as screwed up as us. But that’s okay! There is freedom in taking that mask off and exposing the flaws of your own character. You don’t have to hide anymore! You’re given the freedom through the grace of Jesus Christ to be who you are, expose those flaws for what they are, and simply just try to do better next time. It’s not going to make God love you any more or any less….Stop trying to be a hero, and be yourself. Be the antihero. Because, the antihero is a story of grace.
Obviously he makes some good points. We could read this and think he is accurately expressing a liberated unashamed life of grace. Others may see this guy, like them, almost fearlessly parading their imperfections as a badge of honor named grace. Before we see this antihero as a grace displaying hero it may be good to note that he is an openly practicing homosexual male who justifies his lifestyle by the grace of God.
Common but not Desirable
Some use grace to make sin not only normal but almost desirable. While sin is a common reality we can never see it as normal or desirable. Type 2 diabetes due to obesity is an epidemic in our country. It is common and somewhat normal but that doesn’t make it desirable. Nor do we go eat a bunch of junk food thinking it’s a good way to help us identify with other type 2 diabetics.
Paul consistently challenged the legalistic Judaizers who were influencing Christians to seek righteousness by keeping the law instead of through Jesus alone. This was the opposite of living by grace. Jude and John however, wrote after Jerusalem was destroyed and the Judaizers lost significant influence. Jude and John were dealing with the other side of the issue, people using grace to justify their sin. Jude 1:4-12 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (unbridled sin) and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves…
You see John addressing this trend in the stories He recorded about Jesus like His response to the man healed after a 38 year sickness by the pool of Bethesda, “do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn 5:2-14). How about what He said to the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you, go, from now on sin nor more” (Jn 8:12)? Jesus told forgiven sinners not to sin any more. Too bad He didn’t understand grace.
This is the same John who later wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate” (I Jn 2:1). Sounds like John was writing so we won’t sin. Notice he said “if anyone sins” not “when” anyone sins. But what about the advocate part, doesn’t that make it okay to keep sinning? John goes on to address that one. 1 John 2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (4) The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (5) but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
John doesn’t stop there, he continues. 1 John 3:3-9 …(4) Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. (5) You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. (7) Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; (8) the one who practices sin is of the devil…(9) No one who is born of God practices sin.
Does this mean we never sin? No, but it does mean that if you consistently justify it under the license of grace, and think it is normal or okay, there may be a much bigger problem!!!
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