At one end of the spectrum is a belief that the law still holds sway over salvation, and that it is possible to identify those who are destined for hell. At the other end of the spectrum is an interpretation of grace as acceptance of any belief system and moral autonomy.

"Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?"


In chapter 8 of the book of John, the scribes and Pharisees believe they have found a fool-proof means of trapping Jesus. Knowing that he was both a friend of sinners and an expert in the law, any course that Jesus took would undermine his own teaching.


Jesus took his time to respond, then offered words that confounded the religious leaders: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." After the crowd left one by one, he then addressed the woman: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."


In his response, Christ provides a marriage of holiness and grace - neither is diminished. The woman is forgiven and instructed to seek holiness. When looking at the issues that divide today’s church, there appears to be a divorce between the pursuit of holiness and the gift of grace. At the extremes, the preferred ideology becomes easy to identify.


At one end of the spectrum is a belief that the law still holds sway over salvation, and that it is possible to identify those who are destined for hell. The clear message to all is one of condemnation and judgment. Grace is equated with compromise in one’s faith.


At the other end of the spectrum is an interpretation of grace as acceptance of any belief system and moral autonomy. The commands and instructions of scripture that do not support the values of secular culture are ignored or treated with contempt. The call to holiness is replaced by morals that are always in flux, and a call to tolerance and inclusiveness of society’s norms.


In-between the extremes are countless followers of Christ who seek to imitate his life and find the perfect balance that he lived. When the greatest treasure is ultimately found in the “son of man” rather than a place, seemingly opposite ideals become a single path that does not compromise. It is an awesome circumstance that humans, fragile “jars of clay,” have been entrusted with so much.


In the end, the Holy Spirit must be the guide as salvation is worked out in our daily lives. All accolades of peers and culture must be pushed aside for the approval of Christ. To withhold forgiveness and to celebrate the bonds of sin are equal acts of hate and divorce. As my pastor stated this Sunday, “A difficult word spoken in love is the ultimate act of kindness.”


Robert Mann is managing editor of eChristianNews.com and can be contacted at rmann@echristiannews.com.