Chutes and Ladders is a game that seeks to reach the top of the board before other opponents do. While the spinner determines how many blocks you advance for each turn, specific squares teach the players a moral lesson. You move higher by climbing ladders when you perform good deeds, but you slide lower on the chutes when you break the rules. Any varying level of success or failure can change in a moment with a simple action. The lesson it teaches children is that you climb higher and faster with the more helpful handouts that you give and fall further into oblivion for all the dastardly deeds you do.
Many people follow the Chutes and Ladders God. This syncretistic version of God attempts to infuse the God of the Bible with the philosophy of karma. Karma is the belief that if you do good, you will receive good. If you do bad, you will receive bad. In our culture, many people may deny a religious belief in karma, but they adhere to it practically. We all enjoy when someone gets what they deserve as long as that someone isn’t us. Believing God rewards moral behavior and disciplines immoral behavior, we reckon that God is dependent upon our ethical integrity to determine how he should best deal with us. The danger of such a belief is assuming that anyone is worthy of God’s love and conjecturing that anyone is beyond God’s love.
This concept is so full of landmines. Of course, doing good is a far superior route than doing evil. When given a chance for obedience or disobedience, always choose obedience. Yet while we strive for such dedication, we must realize that none are ever so obedient enough to warrant God’s approval. God’s love for us is not contingent upon our devotion to him. You cannot do enough good deeds to climb the ladders into God’s presence. You cannot do enough evil actions to plummet you to a depth from which God cannot reach. There has never been a ladder high enough or a chute low enough to reposition ourselves in the presence of God. No person has ever been too high or too low for God to reach him or her. While God is aware of records, he is not hindered because of them. If we can reconnect with God, it will be because he crosses the chasm and not because we figured out how to alleviate the distance.
God does not operate like a Chutes and Ladders board game. God is gracious.
The Grace of God
The grace of God is foundational for our salvation and our sanctification. Without the grace of God, we have absolutely no basis for a relationship with him. As rebels who have defied the King of kings, we are morally unfit to remain within the Kingdom. The only way we can regain citizenship is if the King does something remarkable to open up the gates to us again. Our only hope for solace is if he provides it. We are utterly dependent upon the grace of God.
The grace of God is the unmerited, unwarranted, and undeserved favor of God towards unrighteous sinners. It is imperative that we unpack this definition of grace. We use words like grace, mercy, love, and favor interchangeably, and yet there are significant differences. The mercy of God means that we do not receive what we deserve. The grace of God means that we receive what we do not deserve. We are grateful for what mercy spares us and for what grace gives us.
God’s grace is an undeserved gift. Anything that you think is warranted to you for your behavior is not a gift. We don’t deserve God’s love; we are granted God’s love. According to Scripture, the only thing that we deserve is death (Rom. 6:23), hell (Rev. 21:8), and wrath (Rom. 1:18). So if we receive anything less than that, it is only by the grace of God. You never want to seek procurement of what you deserve from God.
The grace of God is greater than our sin. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). What unexpected grace that is able to cover such unmeasurable sin! My sin is rampant, but if we attempt to quantify the summation of humanity’s sin throughout history, the number still falls short of God’s grace.
God is more committed to his grace than you are addicted to your vice.
God is more thorough with his grace than you are determined to have your way.
God is more obsessed in offering grace than you are bent on escaping punishment.
Add up all the transgressions from the toddlers to the Hitlers, multiply them to the nth degree, and he still miraculously gives a greater grace.
While we all claim to have a standard of right and wrong, that justification can only come from God. If God exists, and I believe He does, then He is the only one with the right and responsibility to determine what justice is.
God possesses both lavish extensions of grace and unwavering standards of holiness. These two seemingly competing principles find their peace at the cross, where Jesus takes the just punishment unjustly for our sins.