Grace vs ethical rules

“There is a strong tendency within the church for people to extract and teach the ethical framework found in the Gospels. For instance, people might set up a community in which they attempt to live out principles such as giving to someone in need, turning the other cheek and living simply.

There are however a number of interrelated problems with this approach. Firstly it tends to generate guilt. In other words, the more that we hold up certain principles the worse we will feel when we fall short of them.

This leads to the second problem, namely repression. In order to deal with the guilt we will be more likely to avoid a direct confrontation with our failings. In this way we will tend to intellectually disavow what we are doing.


The trick is to create an atmosphere of love, grace and acceptance where people are not told what to do. Where people learn that heresy which claims that, while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible. In other words, while there are destructive things we do, they can be brought to the light without fear of condemnation. In such an environment ethical acts will emanate from the body just as heat emanates from light. One will not have to be taught that they should look after their neighbour as if it were something that we need to be told, they will simply be more inclined to do so.

The desire to have ethical rules to follow tends to lead to the action they forbid. This causes the spiral into guilt, repression and disavowed symptoms. In contrast laying such ethical propositions to one side and learning to accept both ourselves and the other in grace opens up the path to what we have set aside.”

Peter Rollins (from “Stop Teaching the Ethics of Jesus!”)

I think Peter Rollins has touched on the core of the gospel, which is love, grace and acceptance, emphasising their supremacy over ethical rules. I learnt that whenever people focus on ethics, rules and principles, they are putting themselves under the law which only produces guilt, condemnation and repression. The more people try to live up to their perceived standard, the more they feel repressed and ashamed of their failures, and eventually the works of the flesh will manifest, such as envy, jealousy, outburst of wrath, and so on. Religious adherence to law and ethics may look impressive on the outside, but people are dying on the inside, by trying to stay on the performance treadmill.

Conversely, when people have a revelation of our true identity as love and perfection, made in God’s image, there is no need for outward rules and regulations. We are guided by the spirit of love and grace within, even as we follow the bliss, living by the unforced rhythm of grace freely and lightly. We simply live life intuitively, not going by right or wrong, or the knowledge of good and evil. Even if we make mistakes here and there, we know there is no condemnation and we can simply pick ourselves up and dust ourselves and continue our journey while learning from our experiences. Our true identity remains the same, regardless of our performance, because we are forever innocent, righteous, perfect and blameless, and nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our part is to keep resting and stop doing, so to speak. The more we rest in our true identity, the more our heart is established in grace, and we will not be tossed to and fro by legalistic or condemning teachings.

Like what Peter Rollins wrote, people need to stay in an environment of love, grace and acceptance. There is no need to worry about behaviour modification because the more people are conscious of their true identity and how unconditionally loved they are, the more true and effortless transformation will take place from the inside out, and the fruit of the spirit will result – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. Against such, there is no law. Such transformation takes place subconsciously without people having to try to do anything in order to become something. As we all with unveiled face behold the glory of the lord (our true identity as beloved, beautiful and blameless) we are being transformed from glory to glory into the same image, even by the spirit of grace within us and not by our own efforts.

“Awake to your innocence and remember who you are. You are the music, you are the melody, you are the song. You are a workmanship created in love.” – HM

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