This week, I read a book that at least a half dozen people asked me about just by seeing the cover. Every one of them questioned the title, which gave me a chance to talk about what a great book it is in spite of the provocative title. So what is the book? Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You by Steve Brown.
Perhaps you, like many of my friends, hear me say that title and you wince, but give me a moment. If you are at all familiar with Steve Brown, he’s been around a long, long time. In fact, he refers to himself as “old as dirt.” He is a conservative, Bible believing seminary professor who has been telling people about Jesus for a very long time with his amazing baritone voice. But in the introduction to the book, he tells his readers that he has tried really hard to live in the “religious box” for a long time, a stiff container of legalism and lovelessness. Although the title catches almost everyone off guard, the message inside is pure gospel.
Too often, you see, Christians use methods of discipleship that don’t work. For example, we inflict guilt or we hold up stories of “Bible heroes” without recognizing their dark sides. We present the Bible as a list of rules to be followed rather than a story of a God pursuing sinners right in the middle of their mess. We confuse law and gospel. What happens is not that we sin less, but that we get better at hiding our junk. And then we get self-righteous.
Brown turns this whole approach to the Christian faith (which is ineffective anyways) upside down. He asks the question “What if the Christian faith isn’t about getting better?” Rather, what if the Christian faith is developing a deeper and deeper recognition that God loves us in spite of our sins—past, present and future. What if being a Christian really is about freedom, recognition of our need for Jesus, and the beauty of forgiveness? On page 87, Brown wrote, “I’ve found that the greatest need among Christian leaders isn’t for more commitment, more ‘religion’, and more ‘making an impact for Jesus’. What they need to be taught is that they are seriously sinful and God loves them anyway.” Bingo!
When we begin to recognize God’s love, grace, and forgiveness, something interesting happens. We begin to live as free people. We live fearlessly. We will get better when we aren’t watching and trying so hard.
Three Free Sins is an amazing book. Don’t let the title scare you off. If you are a Christian, God. Is. Not. Mad. At. You. You are his beloved child. You are free. I’m Jason Kanz for off the shelf.