For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. –Jude 1:4
Okay team, here’s the deal. We’re playing according to the Gospel of Grace rules. We’ve been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Are you ready to go? Okay, then let’s go out there and live like Christians. Go!
Wait a minute. What are you doing? Who said we can’t go to that movie or listen to that music? Who said that only certain clothing is acceptable? And are you trying to tell me that any song that’s not in this particular hymnal is actually of the devil? Who knew? The encroachment of legalism comes fast. It comes when well meaning people start to legislate righteousness. No more legalism, okay?
Whoa! What’s this. Porno movies and Nine Inch Nails? You’re going topless and bottomless? You want to sing AC/DC in church? Where did all of this come from? The problem with Christian liberty is that it can quickly morph into a license for hellish living.
Isn’t it ironic that while Paul is preaching against legalism, Jude finds himself arguing against licentiousness? How do we know where proper Christian living lies? How do we avoid the perils of legalism and license?
I would suggest that there isn’t a thin line we must navigate in order to avoid these problems. Instead, I believe that we’ll find ourselves on a fairly spacious roadway, one that will see us occasionally err too far into license or too far into law. It’s a bit like driving on those buzz strips at the edge of the highway. No harm is done. What Paul and Jude argue against, I think, is driving completely off the road of Christianity. Legalism and License, taken too far, are really about placing control into the hands of the created and away from the creator.