What How and Why-Part 2
When El Nino’s rain deluged Southern California one recent winter, the potential dangers of mudslides became a real nightmare for one family. While the family was still in their home, a wave of mud tore through the house, severing it and sweeping a sleeping baby out into the night. The parents began to search through the darkness for the child. Tromping through the mire that had descended upon their whole neighborhood, they searched, dug, and called for their child throughout the long night—without results. When morning came a rescuer, himself covered in mud, came to the parents with a mud-caked bundle in his arms—the baby, filthy but alive. You know what the mother then did. She clung to her child despite its filth, washed the muck away, and determined to keep the child out of the mud in the future.
The account helps me understand concepts in this passage that are so opposed to our common thought about the nature of God’s grace. Grace, we know, annuls our works as the means of securing or maintaining God’s affection. The natural human inclination, as a result, is to suppose that if our good works do not determine God’s affection, there is no reason to do them. Why be concerned about godliness since we are saved by grace? Because, say the Scriptures, when the filth of my sin was sweeping me in my helplessness to eternal death, my God covered himself in the muck of this world to rescue me, embraced me despite my filth, and now wants me to remain out of the mud. Such grace should make us so in love with God that we cannot stand whatever in our lives re-soils us and offends him. Biblical grace makes us intolerant of evil in our lives. The apostle here underscores this truth, saying that the grace of God “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” (vv. 11, 12).
Grace—rightly perceived—compels holiness. This is not a natural logic, we must confess. In the popular mind those who are full of grace are supposed to say, “Okay, that’s all right. Fine. Never mind. Go ahead.” But for the apostle, grace means we say no. What kind of grace is this? The apostle tells us by disclosing the power of Christ’s rescue, the nature of his requirements, and the character of his redeemed.