License to Love: The Goal of Forgiveness

To state the obvious, raising kids is not easy. It requires more patience than I can ever muster. It also requires unending diligence and long suffering. Even the smallest bit of neglect in childrearing has consequences. It’s a complete mystery that parent gets any of it right at all. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and wisdom in helping us do a half-way decent job.

In raising our own kids, my wife and I found out that if poor behavior or disobedience goes unaddressed, everybody in the house pays royally. I admit, though, that I’m a big softy when it comes to my three girls. They have me wrapped around their fingers. When one of them disobeys a house rule, they know just the face to make, or just the heart-melting words to utter to appease my wrath in order to avoid consequences. They know how badly I hate to punish them, even though it’s for their own good (can’t figure out that paradox), and they take advantage of my love for them.

The problem with this is that it lends itself to a pattern of thinking that says, “I can do what I want and get away with it because I’ll just ask daddy to forgive me and he will because he’s loves me.”

The problem that arises here is that in my love for my kids, the last thing I want is to enable them to continue in destructive and rebellious behavior. The entire point of my love, the ultimate aim and objective of my affection is their well being and holiness—not to endorse unhealthy behavior.

This is all the same with the Gospel. A lot of people, being entirely wrong-headed about the Gospel, think that the abundant grace and love of God translates into license to sin. In other words, “Daddy loves me, so I can do what I want and just ask for forgiveness later and he will forgive me seventy seven times!” (Matt. 18:22)

So just to understand the implication of this, the Gospel frees people from consequences so they can go on carrying out self destructive behavior? That’s the point of Jesus dying on the cross, so that sin can run amuck without consequence?

This is not the Gospel. In fact, this is diametrically opposed to the Gospel. The whole point of the Gospel is to get people to stop sinning. To go even further, the point of the Gospel is to transform the rebellious heart of people into hearts that love God and love others more than self.

The purpose of the love of God, our Father, is to cultivate and foster well-being and holiness in our lives, not further brokenness.

The Bible, knowing the dangers of misinterpreting the Gospel this way, fights against this sort of thinking from cover to cover.

Paul says, “do you presume on the riches of his [God] kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

Paul also says, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Rom. 6:1)

While it is true that God is a forgiving and gracious Father, this is quite the opposite of the purpose of the Gospel. The purpose of the Gospel, first and foremost, is for God to fulfill his promises to Abraham and Israel by restoring and redeeming the corrupt and broken creation by way of a Jewish King (Jesus). The instrument by which this happens is the transformation of the hearts, desires, and very nature of individuals and communities. The cross isn’t a license to selfishly sin, rather, it’s a license to selflessly love.

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