Recently I heard someone say that our God was the God the second chance. In fact, they said he was the God the the second, third, fourth and fifth chance.
I’ve heard such things said before, but this time I wondered if it were true. Somehow I didn’t feel it was.
My problem is this. If I think God is like that, might I not come to presume on him being a soft touch? I know I fail him, and I don’t like it, but it is a fact. I’ve repented many times of failure, and I know I’ve been forgiven for my sins (1 John 1:9). But is that the same as saying God gives me another chance?
Gos is a God of grace — dealing with me not as I deserve, but in mercy, and totally undeserved favour. To my mind that’s in a whole different league from chances. Chances are finite. Chances keep a tally. Chances keep the score. Grace is abundant, immeasurable and unfathomable. It’s more than a matter of semantics. I think it is a totally different mind set. Somehow grace breeds responsibility for my actions, which thinking of chances could generate a carelessness.
Peter’s questions about forgiveness (Mat 18:21) and Jesus’ answer (Mat 18:22-35) illustrates the difference in mindset. Peter’s question came from the mindset of chances — how often? how many times? Jesus’ answer, though initially couched in terms of times clearly moves us beyond keeping score. His parable shows mercy and grace in operation. And it also shows the necessity of responsibility on the part of the forgiven. The first debtor had not grasped the implications of his master’s grace and mercy.
Yes, grace may be abused, as Romans 6 also implies. But I will only abuse it if I do not understand it. “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (v 2) When I have grasped grace I will relinquish my grip on sin as surely as a toddler releases the dangerous knife when his mother proffers a favourite toy.
I think I am more likely to be misled by chances. Accepting and understanding grace will make my expectations more realistic. Chance is such a worldly concept. There is great danger I will let the world shape my concept of God. Grace is divine and unworldly. I’d prefer to have my concept of God shaped by him and his grace.