Saved by grace, but living by law

By Al Menconi*

March 2000 – The first time I realized I might be giving the wrong impression about the Christian life was nearly 20 years ago, when I was a counselor at a Christian high school. We sent a group of seniors to visit a Christian college in the area, and I was surprised when some of our students returned with the impression that the college was too liberal for them. When I asked why, they told me it was because the boys wore jeans and the girls wore slacks!

Their definition of liberal Christianity was based on a dress code! I felt like our school had failed them. I had failed them. We are “saved by the grace of God, not of works (or dress codes) lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). How effective was our Christian education if our graduates walked away believing they could be more spiritual if they didn’t wear jeans?

This incident started me on the path of questioning my perceptions about “real” Christianity. Is it a sin to smoke? Is it a sin to drink? How about dancing? Is it a sin to go to R-rated movies? How about listening to secular music? I was a “good” Christian. I didn’t do any of that stuff. But it struck me that I was just like my students who based their spirituality on Levi’s. I was basing my spiritual life on the things I didn’t do. I was saved by grace, but living by law.

A few years later, I asked an adult Bible study group how they thought Jesus would respond to homosexuals dying of AIDS. You would have thought I was trying to support Hitler! They didn’t want to answer the obvious. They brought up Sodom and Gomorrah and claimed that homosexuals were only paying for their sins. Yes, but the question is, “What would Jesus do?” The next week when I asked if a “good” Christian would vote for a liberal Democrat, they almost threw me out. In fact, some never came back, because they judged that I had turned “liberal,” simply because I was asking these questions.

What are Christians known for in our society today? For being anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-Clinton, anti-Hollywood. (They could care less if we smoked or drank, any more.) Why can’t we be known for what we are for, rather than what we are against? Think about it. Have you ever known anyone in the world to have a negative opinion of Mother Teresa? Regardless of what people think of her religion, she was known for her love of others. Why can’t we be known for our love of others instead of our hatred of Clinton?

What is the measure of a true disciple? That we love one another (John 13:35; 1 John 4). But don’t my children have to be obedient and my wife submissive? Don’t I have to attend church every Sunday, and read my Bible and pray, and listen to Christian music and not smoke? These are all good, but not good enough. Loving one another is not some liberal, New Age theology. It’s what Jesus taught. What is a higher priority for you? Not smoking or drinking? Or showing love to others, even sinners? If I err, let me err on the side of grace.  undefined

*Al Menconi is founder of Al Menconi Ministries, P.O. Box 5008, San Marcos, CA 92069, 1-800-78MUSIC. On the internet: Reprinted with permission from Al’s Analysis.