I do not believe anymore in a god who offers second chances. I do not believe in a god who wipes away people’s mistakes and offers sinners a clean slate. A god like this only gives you a second chance to screw up, and forces you to repeat the cycle of having a clean slate, trying to do better, work harder, out-right your previous attempt, fail miserably, repent, and have another second chance. Again and again. A viscous cycle for discipleship. This cycle just exhausts the disciple and leaves them with no spare energy to worship freely and love god and others because they have spent all their energy attempting to justify themselves before god time after time, and the gospel of god’s grace offered through Jesus is an afterthought, emergency backup measures for when you fail — it is not seen as the spring from which all life for the believer constantly flows. But grace is not just for your failures, grace is for your best days, grace covers your miserable attempts at self-generated righteousness as well.
No, I don’t believe in a god of second chances or a clean slate anymore. I believe in a god who, through Jesus, has broken forever the slate, the scorecard, the second chance. We are set free from the cycle of failure, repentance, second chance, beginning another self-justification project and failing eventually again, and come back to the throne of grace begging for another chance, rather than daily going to the throne of grace for our every need. The god who I worship has set me free from that cycle, the god who I worship has made the righteousness of Jesus my one chance, my only slate, my only scorecard.
The implications of this are massive, some are comfortable, and some are uncomfortable, especially for a people addicted to performance, measure, and scoring. It means that not only is the poor woman with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa just as loved by god as the most successful, powerful, and productive Western man, it also means that the most hateful, prideful, arrogant and vile person on this planet is no less valued by god than the most gentle, caring, lovable, intelligent, tolerant, humble, and generous person.
We are addicted to performance in our own lives, we are addicted to evaluating ourselves by comparing our character to others.
I’m more tolerant and accepting of people than that person.
I’m more compassionate than this person because I hold these views and support this cause unlike that person who supports this other cause opposed to my cause.
I’m more intelligent than those people because I see things this way and not that way.
I believe in X and not Y, I support A and not B.
We measure ourselves against others, and highlight the especially egregious examples of deviants to contrast ourselves against them.
I’m not as intolerant as the Westboro Baptist Church.
I’m more intelligent than these people who oppose evolution.
I’m a man who supports the #yesallwomen hashtag and not the #notallmen hashtag.
All of us on this planet are constantly seeking validation, we are constantly beginning new self-justification projects each and every day, but the good news that the gospel of Jesus proclaims is that the war is over. There is peace. The scorecard has gone up in flames flowing from that cross outside Jerusalem, the clean slate has been destroyed under the weight of the stone that held Jesus in the tomb.