But exploiting this astonishing grace of God leads to what is known as cheap grace.
When I was a newspaper carrier during junior and senior high school, a group of about 8 boys gathered on a corner every day and played touch football while waiting for the papers. But on Fridays, the others were always late. They always went to confession at their church and then stopped at the drug store to buy a very nasty magazine or two to bring to the corner and share. I was brought up in a different tradition and knew that this behavior was bad and I told them so. Their response was, “It’s OK! We’ve just been to confessions so we are clean, and we’ll just confess this next Friday!”
In Leviticus Chapters 8 – 10, we find a warning for this kind of behavior. The law had been given by God to Moses, who taught Israel what they must do, including initial consecration of the priests – Aaron and his sons – and the people, a most holy and historic event. They saw the full presence of the Lord come down in the form of fire so terrifying that all the people screamed and fell face-down on the ground, unable to face the power of God.
You would think that this experience would leave a lasting impact on the people, and especially the priests who knew they would die instantly if they disobeyed any of the sacrificial rules. But beyond all reason, Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu experienced temptation and then chose disobedience by burning incense to the Lord in a way that violated the rules of preparation and treatment of holy things.
They were literally playing with fire for entertainment in their new positions of importance and figured it could do no harm. But God immediately overcame them with the same fire he had shown to the people just hours or days earlier, so terrible that both brothers died of sheer terror before the Lord.
Later, Aaron and his other two sons were so shaken by what had happened that they too made mistakes and violated one of the sacrificial rites. Moses was very angry and the stage appeared set for another harsh judgment. But when Aaron explained how upset he was over losing his first two sons, Moses never spoke of it again out of pure compassion, and there was no second judgment from God.
Yes, God’s never-ending love can lead to amazing grace in the most dire of situations. But we cannot allow temptation to lead us into situations where we expect to be forgiven.
Is the Christian church playing with fire in failing to obey God’s commands to love each other as He loves us?
Given current world events, is it time to stand up on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world, or are we too content, counting on cheap grace and ultimate deliverance?