I wrote Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace during and after the cancer journey of my canine friend Hannah. She was a remarkable companion and I realized from her how much dogs can teach us about life. One of her sweetest characteristics was a total lack of condemnation no matter how selfishly I might behave toward her. Condemnation seems to be the starting point for disagreements in our angry social media world.
I can carry that over into my journey with Jesus. When I trip and fail to live out the truths I espouse my first reaction is that God must be disappointed. Surely a Holy God would condemn such actions. The Apostle Paul wrote that is not the case. Here is an excerpt from Stay on that topic.
Paul talks about no condemnation from an eternal perspective. It is the passage that contains a verse that has already played a role in this journey.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 7:21–8:2, emphasis added
No condemnation. None. Nada. Zip. What part of no do I not understand? Yet we have a hard time believing that truth. Surely there must be some condemnation from God. It doesn’t make sense. I mean, look at how I blew it again. How can Jesus let me skate on that? Of course there are consequences to sin and bad decisions. But we need never compound that with shame and guilt that causes us to hide from the One who can keep us from making another bad choice.
Maybe this is one more way that our canine friends can be breathing role models of grace. Hannah could be the poster puppy for no condemnation. Nothing that I do causes her to abandon me. No selfish act on my part drives her away. She is incapable of condemnation. I can ignore Hannah. Snap at her. Refuse her nuzzles. And then when I call her name, she runs to me with the undignified abandon of the father to his prodigal son.
What an example of forgiving grace!
Because we are God’s beloved children, Jesus is incapable of condemning us. I know that those who fear that Christians will take advantage of grace push back against statements like that with varying levels of civility. Doug Kelly once mused that “If you want to make people mad, preach law. If you want to make them really, really mad preach grace.” Again, let me be clear. Sin has consequences, and they can be ugly. God allows those consequences to play out in order to teach us tough lessons. But I am convinced of this. He never condemns me because condemnation is the antithesis of grace.
Taken from Stay by Dave Burchett copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.