You’re worried about permissiveness—about the way the preaching of grace seems to say it’s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God’s forgiveness… While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He’s angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue—that music, dancing, and a fattened calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys anymore. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again.” The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.
Robert Capon, BETWEEN NOON AND THREE
Let’s take a breath.
There’s a lot here to chew on.
I could talk about a lot of ideas brought up in the one quote, but I’d like to focus on one thing: bookkeeping or score-keeping.
It’s a weird topic idea, I know.
When I was in school it was a common occurrence for the teacher to have a list on the chalkboard of everyone’s names. As they taught, if someone got into trouble the teacher would put a mark beside they appropriate name. Get enough of these marks and the earned actions would be taken.
- Separating from the rest of the class.
- Manual labor – cleaning the chalkboard, dusting the erasers, sweeping the classroom, etc.
- Stand in the hall.
- Go to the principal’s office.
No one wanted any of this to happen.
Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of marks beside my name and the appropriate punishment taken.
Most of us had that one kid in our class who had all the marks next to their name and just stayed in trouble. There are probably a hundred reasons why this kid stayed in trouble. Troubled home life, ADHD, boredom, uninterested, inner issues, etc. The reasons don’t really matter, the actions do.
As a kid, it was so easy to base my performance and behavior based on that kid. But that is a very unbalanced and unfair way to judge my behavior. To say that my behavior is better than someone else’s just because I didn’t get caught or had fewer marks is silly. We could’ve all had at least one mark, meaning we failed. Even if we had no marks, we probably should have or could have.
He got five marks while I only got one. I must be doing pretty good.
The cross of Christ rectified the accounts. The cross of Christ removed the tally. The cross of Christ relinquished the demerits.
God is not after behavior modification. His goal is life resurrection. Behavior will change after that.
This is something that we should forever be grateful for.