On February 21, 2008, Sir Richard Billing Dearlove, former head of the UK Secret Intelligence Service, testified in court during Princess Diana’s inquest that they do grant a licence to kill. This came as a surprise to some who thought a license to kill was merely a literary device used in spy fiction.
For the unaware, a license to kill is the official sanction by a government agency that allows an employee to initiate the use of lethal force in the delivery of their objectives. In other words, these men and women have the freedom to perform actions that would earn a normal person life in prison or capital punishment. In a way, these people are above the law.
Today, some Christians live as if they have a license to sin. They live as if they are above God’s moral law.
It’s easy to love God’s grace. Grace is, by definition, unmerited favor. It’s a gift given to us freely, without us having to do anything on our part. We are given this gift not because of anything we did, but because of what God did for us, in our place. Thus, we don’t earn our way to heaven. We merely have to reach out and accept the gift (Ephesians 2:8–9).
This gift, however, is unique. It’s not a gift of something physical, like cars or jewelry, which has a use that is limited and finite. Rather, this gift is spiritual and, if used rightly, should utterly transform you from the inside out.
But we have to use the gift correctly in order to receive the results of the gift. If we assume that the gift is something to take, but merely to use as we see fit, then we will miss the purpose of the gift entirely. We weren’t given grace so that we could continue to revel in our sins. Christians do not have a license to sin. This is why Paul answers his own question in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:1–2,4
You see, if you have accepted God’s free gift, you are called to “walk in newness of life.” Will you still struggle with sin? Of course! Paul himself had this exact struggle (Romans 7:15–20). But you will look at the sin in your life differently. You will love it less and less as you grow in Christ. You will, slowly but surely, allow Christ to have victory over the sin in your life.
Peter gives us some insight as to what we are supposed to do with this gift. He says that because we “were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ”, we can now sit back and enjoy a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Because of the gift we have received, Paul actually offers the following instruction:
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
— 1 Peter 1: 13–20
In other words, we are to do everything we can to actively pursue holiness, striving to look like Christ more and more each day. This may sound difficult, and you would be right. That’s the paradox of being a Christian: Becoming a Christian is simple. Being one is the hardest thing you will ever do.
Accepting God’s gift means all you have to do is reach out and take it. It’s up to you, however, to use the gift the way God intended us to — not as a license to sin, but as a instrument of transformation.