When i wrote this article What can we learn from the Mike Guglielmucci scandal? I had no idea of just how many people would read the post. I was watching the stats rise by the second as thousands of people checked it out, obviously reeling from the whole sorry episode. As I spoke to people in the days after the event and checked out what others were writing on the net. I noticed that a lot of people who were understandably angry and disillusioned. However there were also a huge amount of young people, who’s response went something like this.
“Hey we all sin”
“Can’t wait to see him back and speaking and leading again”
“All sins are equal”
“He is gonna come back bigger and better from this”
I noticed that how people were responding to this very much illuminated a trend that I see all across the church as I interact with young adults. That is a confusion over the idea of sin and consequences. Let me explain.
Christianity in contrast to many other religions believes in the concept of grace. That is the radical idea that no one is beyond the love of God. That you can be a mafia hitman and if you commit your life to Christ your sins will be forgiven. This is the Christian idea of salvation. But I am noticing that this idea is getting a slightly bit skewed. Many have failed to realise that whilst grace allows us to be free from sin, grace does not give us a free pass from consequences.
I remember having dinner with Gerard Kelly when he was out here in Melbourne. He used the idea of playstation to illustrate how many young people today grow up without an idea of consequences. He said that when you grow up with playstation, you grow up with the idea of the reset button. If you mess things up or if your character dies, all you have to do is press reset and you can start again from the beggining. This is true also of the education system that many young people have grown up with today, which encourages the building of self esteem over the old pass/fail model, students are protected from the consequences in a way that they have never been before. The age of peerants has also seen many helicopter parents swoop in and save their kids from the consequences of their actions. Thus it is no wonder that many struggle to understand that whilst grace covers a multitude of sins, it does not press the reset button on the consequences of our choices.
Thus whilst all sins are forgivable in the eyes of God, not all consequences are equal when it comes to our earthly lives. Staring at the girl crossing at the lights in the mini-skirt may be a sin but it does not carry the same consequences as killing a pedestrian because you were drink driving. God will forgive you for both sins if you bring them to him, but the consequences of the drink driving offence will probably mean that the rest of your life here on earth will be a living nightmare as it will be for the family and loved ones of the person that you killed. It is possible to be forgiven and right with God yet to have trashed your life here on earth. This is one of the paradoxes of having free will.
Here we can learn much from scripture. Abraham was given a promise by God that out of him would come a nation that would inhabit the land that God would give them. In essence the Hebrews had been given a gift of grace. They had been picked by God to be his ambassadors, his chosen ones. However they still had to be shaped, moulded and had to learn the consequences of their actions. Isidore Epstein writes of the early Hebrews in Judaism: a Historical Presentation
…their slave mind still possessed them. Largely undisciplined and spiritually enervated…Much less could they rise to the loftiness of their mission for the fulfilment of which the land was promised to them as an inheritance.
When I read this quote I can’t but help think that we have much in common with the early Hebrews. We who are believers may be saved; yet to be truly disciples, to live the kingdom life on earth, we must understand that much of biblical teaching is written to shape our life and show us the way out of poor choices and their disastrous consequences. When we just have the concept of grace minus an understanding of consequences, we create a generation of immature spiritual consumers. This is a key concept to understand for young adults and those leading them.