Grace is not God’s apathy

by Nathan Rambeck on

One of the most pernicious views of God’s grace is the idea that God doesn’t really care about sin in our lives at all. This view almost always comes from those who rarely, if ever, read the Bible for themselves. It’s a common view among the nominally religious, or those who consider themselves more liberal or “progressive” in their faith.

Here is a typical narrative from those who hold to this twisted view of God’s grace:

Jesus came to love sinners. His ministry on earth was all about showing compassion to the needy and loving sinners where they are at. He never condemned anyone, except for the religious hypocrites of his day. As Christians, we should show grace to unbelievers by just loving them and not being so uptight about how they choose to live their lives. Jesus taught that we should never judge anyone’s behavior, so we should just keep our mouth shut. Christian outreach should focus more on the pain and suffering of people rather than on their sinful behavior.

This false narrative doesn’t come from a comprehensive reading of the Bible, but is instead a fabricated view, borrowing bits of Biblical facts taken outside of their context.

While most who hold to this view of grace would use a different term other than apathy, that is what it ultimately equates to.

Tolerance of Sin is Unloving

One of the highly lauded virtues in today’s society is tolerance. To tolerate is to “allow the existence of something without interference.” The priests of tolerance tell us we should love our neighbor through a philosophy of live and let live, not judging or condemning the behavior of others.

The Scriptures instruct us instead to hate evil ("You who love the Lord, hate evil!" Psalm 97:10) as God does and to show compassion and love for sinners by correcting them and warning them of the destruction that will come their way if they don't turn to God and receive forgiveness.

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12

When God taught Israel to love their neighbor, did He tell them to ignore their neighbor’s bad behavior?

'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:17-18

You cannot love your neighbor while tolerating his destructive behavior.

Jesus called all men to repentance

None of this changed when Jesus came onto the scene. In His ministry to Israel Jesus’ primary message was that the people should prepare for the coming kingdom by repenting of their sin.

Some people will tell you that Jesus came to love sinners by tolerating their sin and just hanging out with them. But what did Jesus say about that when the Pharisees asked him about his association with sinful people?

And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Matthew 9:11-13

Jesus didn’t tolerate their sin, he met with them to call them to repentance.

Jesus condemns sin through the cross

If grace is an indifferent attitude toward sin, then the cross makes no sense. Jesus died for the sins of the world, not because it was a cool publicity stunt, but because it was a requirement of justice. God’s commitment to justice regarding the evils of sin required that a sacrifice be made.

The Scriptures tell us that through the act of His sacrificial death, God condemned sin. He deals directly with the sin problem, not by ignoring it, but by defeating it.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3

And what was the purpose of condemning sin in the flesh?

that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4

God condemned sin so that it could be eradicated from our lives. He took away the power of sin to produce guilt and condemnation so that ultimately we could be free from it and live a life of righteousness and goodness.

Grace teaches us to live righteously

The grace that saves us teaches us to hate sin and love righteousness. It’s true that some (even many) Christians who have received God’s gift of grace, do not fully grasp the lesson that it teaches about sin. We see this among believers mentioned in the Bible and also among believers living around us today.

Some may say, that too much emphasis on grace leads believers to be soft on sin. The Bible teaches that the opposite is true.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12

The grace that saves us is the same grace that teaches us and empowers us to live godly in this present world. That is something the law is powerless to do.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21

This post is part of a series entitled Foundations of Grace and is best read from beginning to end.


Nathan Rambeck is a full-time husband, father and software engineer; and a part-time Bible teacher, abolitionist and evangelist. He lives in the Dayton, Ohio area with his wife Jamie and 6 children. (Facebook)