Max Lucado Goes Overboard on Grace
Some people are concerned that if we emphasize grace too much we're going to end up like liberal mainline churches that seem to have lost a lot of their biblical standards altogether.
Again, grace appropriately received creates a desire for holiness. Like that passage in Titus 2 says, grace teaches us to pursue godliness. And so the liberalism that says yes to everything, a liberalism that sees no right and wrong, and a liberalism that endorses misbehavior—I don't think that mindset has begun where grace begins.
Grace begins with admission of sin. We're sinners, and we all have wandered away, each gone away, each to his own way. And so grace must begin where God begins: we are born with a proclivity to sin. We're inherited the sin of our ancestors, and we need a Savior. When I think of liberalism, it's not that it doesn't teach grace—it doesn't teach sin. No forgiveness is needed if there's no sin.
As you've noted, all churches live with members and attenders who are sinners. But we're usually more comfortable accepting the cool and quiet sins like pride, lust, and greed than the hot, loud sins like drunkenness, adultery, and homosexuality. How should we approach especially these hot sins in church?
To me the question behind the question is, "How do you hate that sin and love the sinner?" Forgive me for reusing that phrase, but that's the tension. That's what Jesus was accomplishing in the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, when he said, "I don't condemn you. Now go and sin no more." Let my choice to forgive you motivate you to lead a better life.
And so as teachers, we should not lead with the sin. We lead with grace. Then we have to spell out to the church what grace looks like as it's unpacked in life. If we always lead with the sin—stop doing this, quit doing that—then we'll lose, and people won't hear the grace. I suggest we lead with grace. We come in just like Jesus, full of grace and truth. We come in with grace and then we present the truth, and we've got to be careful not to elevate one sin over the others.
As a pastor, how do you do this in your church?
I think we do a good job of that at our church, but we have the advantage of being a larger church. In a larger church, people can slip in and slip out. And I think God uses larger churches as a safe place for people who are dealing with very public issues; [they are] able to slip in and receive some truth and then slip out. Sometimes they need that safe place to come for a period of time until they're really ready to receive the message of conviction.
For example, there was this very public political figure in our area who was going through a public divorce. I didn't know he was attending our church, although his name had been in the paper. Some of our members had noticed him, but I never had because he would always sit in the back. I wish I could say that he and his wife had reconciled in their marriage, but they didn't. He still has lots of struggles, but in some ways, he's come a long way. He would say that he needed a safe place to go to know that God would forgive him before he could even think about trying to get his act cleaned up when it comes to women.