A young man visited the great theologian, Martin Luther. This man was worried that he may be committing a sin without knowing it. He was concerned that he may be sent to eternal fire for something he didn’t even realize he was doing wrong. This poor guy had almost no faith. He lived in fear. Luther could hardly contain himself. He looked right at him and said, “SIN BOLDLY MY SON, SIN BOLDLY!”
What is Luther’s point? A life lived in fear of committing some little sin is no life at all. Luther, like Jesus, wants us to see that God is not some heavenly bookkeeper, sitting with pencil sharpened, keeping track of every little slip up. Luther’s command to sin boldly was not a direction to live immorally but rather an invitation to live life to its fullest.
Back in my youth ministry days I told that story in the pulpit. A mom, whose obnoxious little 11 year old was a member of our Christian Kids Fellowship, did not like the story. She complained and said, “You’ve given Johnny permission to sin.” I said, “Up to this point in his life Johnny has not needed my permission to be a brat!”
The grace of God is not heavenly permission to live a life of immorality. It is a call to live as the one that God created us to be. It is a sign that God will go after us, chase us down if necessary, even in the midst of sin, just to tell us that we are loved.
Kathleen Norris, author of the book, Amazing Grace, isn’t so sure that we want a God like this. She writes:
“One so often hears people say, ‘I just can’t handle it,’ when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as Lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: if we seek a God we can ‘handle,’ that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.”
She’s right. We don’t need a safe God. We need one who is larger and holier than ourselves. Maybe, when we live in faith and not fear, we we will discover the blessing that is waiting for all of us.
Grace and Peace to you,