Two Ways To Run

In an essay on sanctification, Gerhard Forde writes about the two ways we can run from God–breaking the rules and keeping the rules:

If our righteousness depends totally on Jesus, and is appropriated only in the relationship of trust (faith), then we begin to see that God has two problems with us. The relationship can be broken in two ways.

The first would be our failure, our immorality, our vices, our rule breaking. Since we lack faith and hope in God’s cause, the relationship is threatened or broken; we go our own way. That problem is usually quite obvious.

But the second problem is not so obvious. It is precisely our supposed success, our “morality”, our virtues, our rule keeping. The relationship with God is broken to the degree that we think we don’t need unconditional justification, or perhaps even to the degree that we think we are going to use God to achieve our own ideas of sanctity. The relationship is broken precisely because we think it is our holiness.

The first problem, our failure and immorality, is usually most easily recognized and generally condemned because it has consequences both personally and socially. But the second problem, while generally approved in human eyes because it is advantageous and socially useful, is more dangerous before God because it is praised and sought after. It is the kind of hypocrisy Jesus criticized so vehemently in the gospels: “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matt. 23:27).