With the discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 came the alleviation of infections that had once been life threatening. In the 80 years since then hundreds of different types of antibiotics have been engineered that have addressed countless problems and have saved millions of lives. Then we hear the headlines about MERSA and other drug-resistant bacteria that have developed due to a misuse of the cure. Through overuse, use on viruses rather than infections, and improper use (like not taking the full prescription) the infections that were once curable have changed. Once curable infections have morphed and altered themselves into resistant strains that are now life-threatening.
When Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and uttered those words, “Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” I wonder if he has said those words since? What starts off perfect and beautiful and priceless can be twisted into something that is blemished and ugly and cheap. What starts out with our good intentions and selfless love can result in our asking the selfish questions of, “what’s in it for me?” and “how much can I milk this for?” It all hinges on one word – Grace. Our perception of grace can make our faith beautiful or it can make it really, really ugly. That is why Jesus calls out the Pharisees as hypocrites in Matthew 23. They knew the law inside and out but they didn’t really know the law. If they knew the law they would know it wasn’t there to serve them. The same is true with grace. That is why Jesus tells his disciples later in Matthew 23 that they need to take on the role of a servant. A servant does not misuse grace. A servant cherishes it. How much more should God’s children?
In Romans 5:20-21 Paul writes, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God took something ugly – sin – and turned it into something beautiful and life-giving – forgiveness through the grace of God resulting in eternal life. Knowing how the human mind works and how the wheels start turning notice Paul’s next question in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Paul warned them not to let grace be motivation for more sin. It is like saying, “don’t keep sleeping around just because we have better “protection” or better medicine for most of the diseases than we used to.” What starts out the cure can easily be twisted into a killer by changing the focus from God to self, from gratefulness to selfishness, from grace to gain. Our selfish desires and abuse of God’s grace morphs inside of us into something deadly.
What is the answer? How do we keep the cure God has provided from being twisted by our own selfish desires? It comes back to the realization Paul points to in that last verse – You died to sin. Not just to part of it or some of it. If you are Christ’s you died to all of it. Some of the hardest people to reach are those who use grace as a cover up and ignore the words of Paul in Romans 6:1-2 because they don’t believe they are sick any more when in fact their illness may have just gotten that much more deadly.