“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
We have a scandalous religious pendulum swinging in the church.
Over the past 100 years, standing on the shoulders of incredible 20th century evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday, the Gospel went out to great masses, resulting in an enormous surge of people claiming Christ as Lord. One of the destructive misunderstandings of this Gospel Movement is called “Cheap Grace”, which essentially minimizes what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, down to simply subscribing to “four spiritual laws” (or the “Road through Romans”) and saying a specific prayer, resulting in your eternal heaven-card being punched.
In real life, this is where being a Christian is a part of our lives, but not the whole foundation on which our lives are built; where we believe that we’ve been saved and are now free to live however we want (I can do whatever, Jesus will forgive me) ; seeing ourselves as the captains of our lives and Jesus as our first-mate; desiring what Jesus gives me more than desiring Jesus himself.
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The other side of this evangelistic movement has resulted in an elite spiritual class of church-goers that have taken the call to follow Jesus seriously (which is great) but have taken themselves too seriously. Those on this side of The Swing (which I see in myself more often than the other side) live under the impression that our behavior impacts our value and God’s view of (and love for) us. We see and are in awe of God’s pure holiness, and then try to live up to this level of holiness ourselves, and expect others to do the same, condemning them when they fall short of how well I pretend that I am doing. Yes, Jesus has saved me, but I need to live up to this calling…or else.
“We cannot be satisfied with our goodness after beholding the holiness of God” – Billy Graham
Jesus’ parable of “Unworthy Servants” in Luke 17 brings us away from Cheap Grace and Earned Grace
He is telling us that part of being a follower of Jesus is to see and treat Him as the Master, following and serving him with every shred of our lives as long as we live.
He is also telling us that the “afterwards” (Luke 17:8) is already planned; the Lord has perfectly prepared a banquet for us where we together will sit with the Lord and celebrate for all eternity. The banquet invitation has been given and our places secured by Him on the Cross, not based upon the goodness of our behavior.
So this incredible free grace of Jesus doesn’t motivate us to sit and do nothing but to run with great perseverance out of thanksgiving, not heavy obligation. Since my debt has been perfectly paid and His gift fully given, I am set free from the heaviness of spiritual performance as well as from the emptiness of spiritual laziness…and set free to love Him and Others out of uncontainable thankfulness for his Ridiculous Grace.