Preaching Articles

Sometimes grace needs to take an uninterrupted victory lap through our lives.

Sin is real.

But grace is stronger.

Hell exists.

But grace is greater.

Justice demands retribution.

But grace is God’s scandalous response.

Why are some Christians so quick to diminish simple statements of grace with a ‘yeah, but’ response?

Whenever a blogger writes something like “When Christians act like Jesus, sinners are drawn in, not pushed away”, there will always be a commenter who will quickly remind the writer, “Yeah, but they hated Jesus enough to crucify him.”

If someone posts a meme that states “grace means there is nothing I could do that would cause Jesus to love me less” they will inevitably receive several responses of “Yeah, that’s true, but love compels us to remind people they are sinners, too.”

Yeah, God’s grace is great. But.

We have to stop adding a ‘yeah, but’ to such basic statements of God’s love and grace. When we do that, we stifle the kind of audacious outbreak of grace that people experienced from Jesus and the early church. And that we need so desperately now.


Overcoming the ‘Yeah, But’ of Grace

‘But’ is a strong word.

Most of us were taught that when someone follows a compliment or apology with ‘but’, ignore everything that came before the ‘but’, because whatever follows the ‘but’ is what they really mean.

That is also true when we talk about sin and grace.

When we add a ‘yeah, but’ to statements about God’s grace and love, we make sin sound stronger than grace.

When we tell people God loves them, ‘but’ they’re sinners, what they hear is ‘God will only love me if I get my act together.’

Yes, we are sinners. That reality should never be ignored or underplayed. But qualifying every statement about love and grace with a ‘yeah, but’ about sin is like interrupting a team’s victory parade to remind everyone that they lost some games during the season, too.

Sometimes grace needs to take an uninterrupted victory lap through our lives.


Grace Comes After ‘But’, Not Before It

I’m not naïve. I’m fully aware of the large and growing movement to normalize and excuse sin in our culture. But I refuse to let that stop me from living and speaking about grace in audacious, Christ-like ways.

Besides, every culture has tried to normalize sins. Different sins at different times. That was certainly the case in both the Jewish and Roman cultures of Jesus’ day.

That’s why Jesus preached a ‘yeah, but’ message too. But his message wasn’t ‘Yeah, there’s grace, but don’t forget sin.’ Jesus message was ‘Yeah, there’s sin, but grace is greater.’

In Jesus’ life and message, grace was always the final word. Often scandalously so.


Love Without ‘Buts’

No one ever preached against sin more strongly than Jesus. But sin is not where the gospel message starts or ends.

It starts with being made in God’s image, it ends with resurrection.

It starts with love, it ends with grace.

Sin is not the start or the end of the sentence. It’s the aberration in the middle.


Sin is always an incomplete statement. Grace is the period at the end of the sentence.

Sin is always an incomplete statement. Grace is the period at the end of the sentence. Love is the message of the sentence.

Sin and hell are true. But they are partial truths. Grace completes the truth.

Sin and hell need a ‘yeah, but.’ Grace does not. Because grace follows the ‘yeah, but.’

The next time you hear a statement about the overwhelming power of God’s grace, let me encourage you to resist your urge to diminish it with qualifiers.

Sit on your ‘but’ and let grace stand alone.

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Anonymous

commented on Jan 13, 2016

Fascinating and excellent content. All glory to our gracious God.

E L Zacharias

commented on Jan 13, 2016

Karl, you make a good point: The Gospel is the trump card. Through Jesus we are victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. That said, we forget that repentance is a Gospel word. The Holy Spirit calls us to acknowledge sin and to heed the call to turn from it. This is Gospel, too. Without God's prompting, we would never think to turn from rebellion and the destructive power of sin. And, of course, the word of forgiveness through the atoning blood of Christ is also Gospel; for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is holiness and eternal life. That said, we cannot simply say that preaching the Gospel is enough. God is at work both through his Law and his Gospel. Both must be faithfully proclaimed, so that the hearer sees the need for repentance and the salvation that is based upon God's grace through Jesus Christ.

Colin Steer

commented on Jan 13, 2016

Talk about tough love!

Natasha Ten Krooden

commented on Jan 14, 2016

I wanted to add a "yeah the article is great", but about half way through - but I think I got the answer to the epic and cliche question: But how do we get this right... Thanks for the enlightening putting the but in the right focus in the end of the article.

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