Yet everyone has their codes and standards of behaviour, and Christians are typically high up on the league table of having expectations on how people should or shouldn't behave.
The problem is that even if our code is reasonable or correct, we typically incorrectly translate it to our relationships with people who do not know Christ, and this messes up our witness and evangelism. In the worst case it effectively reverts us back to salvation by Law.
In simplistic bullet items, here are some suggested lines I use to make sense of the 'grace versus license-to-anything' tension, and to keep things on the grace-only track:
- Non-Christians cannot be expected to know how to live rightly - why would they?
- we can appeal for better in the wider society and we can encourage individuals to live better, but we should not be surprised if they don't (or can't) 'measure up'
- Because salvation is not by law, changing their behaviour (even if they can) is not the way for them to be saved - that is by grace alone (an encounter with Jesus)
- In someone coming to Christ (discovering grace) we can start to work pastorally with them to help them see the incongruity of continuing to live their old ways
- encourage people to see that now we are in Christ "we don't want to do that kind of thing any more"
- realise too that the Holy Spirit takes people on a journey, different people at different speeds
- Since a church is a body of Christ-followers which is visible in the wider society, they will want to strive for certain standards for themselves (taken as a whole) in order to avoid undermining their witness and standing in the community
- but they need to be careful of simply projecting those standards as an organisation onto others
- Leaders of the church are in positions of influence and also likely to represent the public face of the church. It is therefore right to expect them to meet even higher standards.