Know Your Friend

I came across these interesting comments on grace and repentance in a book of letters called Heart of a Servant Leader by Jack Miller. He wants to make the point that grace leads us to deeper repentance.

Miller describes two different theological emphases when it comes to sin and repentance. He says that often in the English Puritan tradition the emphasis looks like this:

  1. Know your enemy — understand sin, the flesh, the devil, etc.
  2. Know your personal limitations — understand your own particular fleshly characteristics and habits and temptations
  3. Know your Friend — understand the grace of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit

Here’s his problem with this approach: “I find myself overwhelmed when I pick up a 320-page book by Owen and find 308 pages devoted to points 1 and 2, and only 12 pages given to point 3, grace and the gospel.” (Okay, this might not be entirely fair to poor, dead Owen but it certainly is a tendency.)

Here is the emphasis Miller prefers:

  1. Know your Friend
  2. Know your enemy
  3. Know your personal limitations
  4. Keep point 1 up front, even when you are talking about points 2 and 3

Some people might worry that emphasizing grace will lead to becoming “soft” on the seriousness of sin and the requirements of the law. Here’s Miller’s response to this objection/fear:

I do not think that an emphasis on grace leads to a soft ministry on sin and the severe demands of the law. Actually, it seems to me that such grace teaching makes it possible for sinners like us to hear the hardest things said about our sin patterns, and that can lead into healthy sorrow which leads back to sanity, i.e., repentance.