One of our team members in France sent the following today as a part of their monthly newsletter.
“Jamie explained the gospel to a Bible study of non-believing folks several times. While they accept most Biblical truths, they have great difficulty with God’s grace. Grace goes against human nature. They want their works to play a role in their salvation, and they do not want “bad people” to be pardoned. They think that “minor sins” are pardonable if the “minor sinner” has done good works, but sinners who commit “a big one” should not be pardoned. We have reviewed much scripture to the contrary, but so far, to no avail – this is not a question of intellect, but of the heart. This seems to be the biggest barrier between them and coming to Christ. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would change their hearts.“
I’ll confess I find this fascinating, though I probably shouldn’t be all that surprised by it. I think it illustrates both the differences between the French and American mindset, and yet the similarities we share with them, in that we are all sinners unsuccessfully trying to justify ourselves before God.
It is interesting to note the differences between American and French unbelievers. It’s funny to think about the sentence, “they have trouble with God’s grace,” especially in light of the fact that they are seemingly okay with other biblical truths. Grace doesn’t seem like it would be much of a hangup, but like Jamie says, grace works against human nature. Grace means relying on God to save, on God to justify, which seems like something people could easily do, if this didn’t also mean admitting that they needed it in the first place. In other words,
God’s grace says, “You’re a sinner.”
And man’s response is, “No I’m not.”
In this regard, the French are actually no different than Americans. What else could explain the unmerited popularity of a guy like Joel Osteen, or any other pastor who refuses to talk about sin and its consequences? We hate grace, because two thirds of it’s message is that God has propriety over us and that we are in rebellion to His authority. It is impossible, simply impossible, to talk about or understand grace without first understanding sin, and what sin does to man’s relationship with God.
We sang the hymn “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted” in church this last Sunday. One of the verses says the following…
“Ye who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great. Here (at the cross) may view it’s nature rightly, here it’s guilt may estimate.”
The cross, the most foundational truth of the Christian faith, only makes sense in light of sin. And we don’t like it, not as Americans, not the French, and probably not any other group of people affected by Adam’s fall either.
But there does seem to be a difference *1* in the French and American view of grace. I don’t think Americans make quite the same distinction between “major” and “minor” sins. Perhaps it’s because we’re too egalitarian, but I don’t think that Americans have much of a problem believing that God can pardon sin, even major sins. If anything, it seems like we almost assume that God is obligated to be gracious to us, that it’s His job to forgive. Most non-Christian Americans I know believe that hell is reserved for the likes of Adolph Hitler, Ted Bundy and (if they’re liberals) G.W. *2*
For the French, well, they’ve suffered equally through two world wars, and a heavy dose of Roman Catholicism, both of which could easily trick a people into thinking that certain people will never make it to heaven if God is at all just.
The good news is that there are people in France, already, preaching the gospel to the French. The Gildard’s, the Mitchell’s, and Stephanie Pike are our teammates already in France, and they join hands with a small but growing denomination dedicated to preaching the gospel to the French people. And it doesn’t take much. Luther was just one man convicted by the truths of the book of Romans, and God used him to change the world. It can happen again, and we are excited to be a part of it.
Thank you again for your prayers.
*1* Took me long enough to get to it huh?
*2* And even then, they’ll acquiesce on the first two.