1John 5:13-18 NKJV
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
John tells his readers that out of the confidence we have in Jesus, out of the knowledge we have of eternal life in him, we also have the certainty that he will answer the prayer that is prayed in accordance with his will. And we know that he is not willing that “any should be lost” (Mt 18:14). John tells us then, according to 1 John 5:16, that those who are in Christ have been entrusted the responsibility to pray for their brothers and sisters. Sometimes we see a person who has departed from the truth; we are told to pray for that person. This needs to be a matter not of self-righteous judgment or smug superiority but of sacrificial love for one another. Sin is not trivial; it hurts and destroys. Just as we long for prayer support when we are tempted, so we ought to pray for others who are in trouble. We extend grace to them, while also expecting accountability.
Pastor and author Timothy J. Keller talks about the necessity of modeling God’s grace in the context of extending aid to the needy. While the situation is different, the concept of non judgmentalh stewardship is the same.
Grace is not unconditional acceptance, but it is undeserved. That is a very difficult balance to strike! God’s grace comes to us without perquisites, finding us as we are. God’s grace does not come to the “deserving” (there is no such person), and it does not discriminate. Rather, initially, it comes to us freely. But once it enters into our lives, God’s grace demands change; it holds us accountable. Why? Grace demands our holiness and growth for our sake as well as for God’s glory. Grace intercepts destructive behavior, protects us from the ravages of sin, sanctifies us so we can be “holy and happy,” two inseparable qualities.
In summary, grace is undeserved caring that intercepts destructive behavior. It is not unconditional acceptance, nor is it legalism that says, “Shape up or I will stop loving you.” Rather it says, “Your sin cannot separate you from me,” and then, in addition, says, “I won’t let your sin destroy you.” Grace comes to the unlovely person, but refuses to let him remain ugly. Grace begins as “justification,” a free act of God alone, but it becomes “sanctification,” a process by which the person cooperates with God in spiritual growth.
The concept can be applied to many areas. In childrearing books there is much talk about “striking a balance between love and discipline,” as if the two were opposed. But this false tension is resolved with an understanding grace. Grace means getting involved, protecting the child from destructive behavior, continuing to do that despite the child’s lack of “deserving,” and doing so consistently, not sloppily or haltingly.