When grace goes sour

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Periodically in history, spiritual revivals burst upon the world . . . The Spirit breathes, charity spreads. The greatness of God and His love are rediscovered and human pettiness is pushed aside. At the same time, the unlimited nature of God’s requirements is re-discovered, and the boundlessness of His grace. It is proclaimed. Men feel called, welcomed and not judged. They are overwhelmed, their conduct and way of life are changed, they become fervent, practising Christians.

And then gradually, inevitably, in that more virtuous, more austere environment, a new conformity emerges. Grace becomes conditional. Judgement appears.

Anyone who does not subscribe
to certain standards is suspected
of infidelity and hypocrisy.

And that is what awakens hypocrisy, for everyone, in an attempt to live up to his faith, seeks to appear better than he is and begins to hide his faults instead of confessing them…

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Moralism has returned, and with it the breath of the Holy Spirit is stifled. In order to ensure the lost treasure people cling all the more to certain ‘principles’ inherited from the heroic period, to a new limited morality. What was a spontaneous impulse, free and joyful obedience to God, responding to His wonderful grace, becomes constraint, legalistic obligation and fear of criticism… Above all, people begin to pretend to be more virtuous than they are. That was the fault of Ananias and Sapphira, which the Apostle Peter reproved so sternly (Acts 5:1-11).

–Paul Tournier
Guilt and Grace

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