ABC reality show the Bachelorette is in the news regarding a confrontation from bachelorette Hannah Brown and contestant Luke Parker. Brown is a professing Christian and Parker is a born again Christian. The subject of sex outside of marriage came up in a conversation. Parker said “let’s say you have had sex with one – or multiple – of these guys, I would be wanting to go home.”
Brown says “I’ve had sex and Jesus still loves me.” Certainly Jesus is infinitely gracious. But we also should not take a casual attitude towards sin. Brown has received criticism from many Christians this week. I think her attitude is one that has become too common among professing Christians. We take anyone pointing us to Christians teachings as them judging us. And we treat “thou shalt not judge” as the first and only commandment that matters in the 21st century.
Parker didn’t say what Brown could or could not do. He simply said that if they were not on the same page with sexual ethics, he would not be interested in pursuing a relationship. From biographical information, before he became a Christian, Parker described himself as a “player” who took advantage of women. But in coming to faith, it changed his perspective.
There’s a difference between being a Christian who sins and a Christian who’s comfortable with sin. All sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But the heart of the gospel isn’t that Jesus died so we could stay the same. The gospel is meant to transform a person. When a person is born again, God gives us a new heart. We’ve had a lifetime of sin, of bad habits and the good news is that we’re forgiven. But all of our areas of sin and struggle don’t evaporate from our daily life. Sometimes as we grow, it can feel like two steps forward, one step backward. It’s a winding road of faith.
But that’s totally different from being comfortable with sin. It’s different to slip up sometimes compared to enjoying sin and justifying it. This mentality is not new. The Apostle Paul addresses it in the Book of Romans. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)”
Paul says “By no means. How can you who died to sin still live in sin? (Romans 6:2)”
Perhaps some will dismiss this because that’s what Paul said and not Jesus. Jesus has much to say on the subject of repentance. He is gracious and forgiving. Jesus also said “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). We are called to turn from sin and turn to God. This is repentance.
It’s different to know something is an area of struggle and to want to improve than to say “it doesn’t matter what I do because Jesus has to forgive me anyway.” Because the danger in that is it potentially shows a person who hasn’t truly come to Jesus. I’m not the judge of people’s souls. But the Bible does say that people should “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Brown said, “I refuse to not stand in the sun. I refuse to feel shame. I refuse to believe the lies and evil that flood my comments. I am standing firm in believing that maybe God wants to use a mess like me to point to His goodness and grace. But dang, it’s hard. The amount of hate I and the men on this journey with me receive…it’s chilling to know so many people want to spread hurt so recklessly. We all fall short of the glory of God…we just happen to do it on national television,”
My point isn’t to spread hate. Sadly, there’s this narrative that pointing anyone to morality means you hate them. Calling a professing Christian out for failing to live up to Christian values is seen as judgmental. We all make mistakes. But it’s fascinating to me in her own comments that she seems to acknowledge that she herself considers her actions to be sinful.
When she responded to Parker, Brown said “I believe that sex was made for a man and a woman in marriage, but I am having physical relationships, so like I have had sex, and honestly, Jesus still loves me.” This has nothing to do with judging someone else. She’s not following what she knows is true, right, and good.
The sad part of this story is that it undermines the greatness and beauty of the gospel.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Brown said “I can do whatever. I sin daily and Jesus still loves me.”
In the Cost of Discipleship, German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. Bonhoeffer says:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
An “it doesn’t matter what I do because Jesus will just forgive me anyway” is the epitome of cheap grace.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.