Stephen E. Robinson (deceased) from his book ‘Believing Christ’ said:

There is a transforming power in the grace of Christ for those whose hearts breaks in humble acknowledgment of their need for grace and mercy. I knew a member of the Church once whose sense of justice was so strong that he couldn’t accept the Atonement of Christ, although he did not realize it at the time. Oh, he was a hard man—hard on his wife and kids, hard on his friends and neighbors, and most of all hard on himself. He was never really unfair, but he seldom forgave and he never forgot. He strove for perfection in all that he did, and he was absolutely intolerant of failure and of those who failed. To him a “nice try” or “valiant effort” were just euphemisms for failure, and heaven help his wife or his children if they failed to meet his expectations. In all fairness this man never asked anyone else for a break, but he never gave one either. To him the idea that we could be forgiven of our sins because of what Christ had done and thereby totally escape paying a just penalty seemed too easy. He sarcastically called the doctrine “easy grace” because he felt it let people off the hook who deserved to be punished.

After several years of friendship, I discovered that this man was hiding a great secret, a terrible sin in his past for which he could not forgive himself. In his mind this sin was so horrible that justice must surly bar him from the kingdom of God forever. He was absolutely without hope and in his stony resignation to what he considered a just fate, he had become hard and cold and dead. His self-hatred and rage at his own imperfection spiraled outward to wound everyone he knew who also might show signs of imperfection.

As we talked it over on one occasion, he agreed he was probably right about the law of justice—it probably would slam the door of the kingdom in his face. But I also reminded him that mercy could open doors justice wouldn’t. Then I took a gamble and told him that I didn’t think his fixation for justice was motivated by grief or guilt, as he claimed, but rather by pride. He just couldn’t tolerate the thought that he needed help, nor could he lower himself to ask for it. He was willing to accept the fact that others were spiritually inept, but that he couldn’t save himself, and that he needed someone else’s help—that was too monstrous, too grotesque to consider. His pride would not allow it. So he rejected mercy, even though he couldn’t satisfy justice. Consequently, his heart had not broken under its weight of sin—it just turned to stone instead. He would rather be damned by justice than to ask God for mercy.

At first he was offended by what I said, and for a while our friendship hung in the balance. But little by little he realized that his rejection of the idea of mercy amounted to a rejection of Christ. Finally, one day he said, “That’s really it, isn’t it?” I’m just too proud to admit my weakness and ask for help. I don’t want to admit my imperfection even to myself, let alone to the Bishop or to God. My pride would rather see me in hell paying the full penalty of justice than to see me humble to seek the Lord’s mercy.” Eventually he went to his Bishop and with considerable courage confessed a sin carefully hidden for decades. And as he humbled himself and sought mercy rather than justice for himself in his own life, a marvelous thing happened. As he came to know he was forgiven by grace for someone else’s sake, as he realized that what had been done for him as a favor, as he realized what an incredible break he had been given gratis, he began to act with patience and mercy and forgiveness toward those around him. He was no longer a hard man.

But why do you do this for me?

Because I love you.

But it doesn’t seem fair.

That’s right, it’s not fair at all—it’s merciful.

It is, after all, a gift.

But how can I possibly deserve such a gift?

Don’t be silly, you can’t. You don’t. This gift is offered because I love you and want to help you, not because I owe it to you.

But how can I ever repay You?

There you go again. Don’t you get it yet?

You can’t repay me, not you or all the billions like you. Gifts of this magnitude can never be repaid. For what I’ve done out of love for you, you can only love me back, and seek to become what I am—a giver of good gifts.

And that is good news.

~Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 145-50 (Dwarsligger® edition)

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