Have you ever heard of the phrase “cheap grace” in reference to Lutherans, or had someone accuse you of simply being a “lazy Catholic?” Grace is NOT cheap. The grace of God towards us came at a price-a huge price. The price was so large that the immortal God, who rules over every last centimeter of the cosmos, had to take on the form of us measly human beings and then die. We like to think that we are quite large and influential here on our planet Earth, but in comparison to the vastness of the universe, we are even smaller than a speck of dust. Yet, God Himself came down and became smaller than a speck of dust so that He could pick up all the others and bring them back to Heaven.
Simply becoming a speck of dust was not enough to save us from ourselves, the world, and Satan; God had to die. He had to take on the entire wrath of God against sin onto Himself and suffer in agony until He had died to pay for everything we have done. There have been millions of people who have lived and died and who will live on this earth and yet God died for all of them-every last one.
That is a huge price and thanks be to God that He has paid the massive debt we owe so that we can simply live by the grace of God. It should be pretty easy, right? Yet, the Old Adam in us constantly keeps popping up and causing us trouble by trying to push our lives under grace to one of two extremes. The one is the familiar “I can do whatever I want” attitude. You just live your life however you please and God will handle it so you don’t have to worry. Yet this extreme causes harm to both us and to our neighbor, because honestly loving our neighbor is not the priority on our to-do list of living however we desire. We will not want to love our neighbor, we will constantly put ourselves first, and we will always seek to defend our actions by passing the blame onto our neighbor.
There is another extreme we turn to when trying to live by grace, and that’s just it. We start to try. We start to worry that grace is not enough, that what we have done cannot be forgiven. We repent of our sins, but then guilt and shame come knocking at the door of our consciences and we are unsure what to tell them. They ask “How can you be sure that you are really and truly forgiven?” “How do you know that the sins you committed are not being held against you by your neighbor?” “Have you tried hard to fix what you did?” They then bind you to the Law: “If you don’t do better next time, you must not have been trying hard enough and you only get a few chances to get it right.” This leaves us to wrestle with guilt, which will wear and tear at our faith just as much as the first extreme will-leaving us feeling like God will never be able to forgive everything we have done.
However, we confess that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent so He is more than capable of forgiving our sins. In fact, that is the entire reason He came to die in the first place. If we could get to Heaven on our own, the death of Jesus Christ would be the most pointless death in all of history. Yet clearly we cannot make it on our own; we cannot make it at all. That’s why God had to become a smaller than a speck of dust. That’s why He had to die. He did all of that because we cannot do it and all of our attempts to try leave us guilt-ridden and afraid.
So we don’t believe in “cheap grace.” We believe in very expensive, very precious grace through Jesus Christ. Even though we daily commit sins, we rejoice in the fact that God has already forgiven us our sins, even as we daily come to Him in repentance and trust in His promise of grace.
Monica Berndt is a member of Christ the Savior in George, Washington and studies music at the University of Washington.