Depending on the situation we either LOVE or HATE this word with very little in between. We LOVE this word when it benefits US and we HATE this word when either it benefits someone we dislike or leaves us out in the cold. Just take time to look at our tax laws and you will find it filled with EXCEPTIONS. Recently I was doing my taxes and noticed that people living in the Washington DC area get a "First Time Homebuyers Credit". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how that got inserted into our 1040 forms. If you live in DC, you love this law. If you don't live in DC, you hate this law.
In our Christian Faith we fall victim to exceptionalism as well. There are 2 forms of "exception-ism" we see in play in our lives. The first has to do with our relationship to God's law. Some flaunt that the law doesn't apply to them anymore... they are an exception. This isn't just within the church but can be found in the world as well. Take for example, two people living together. We insert an exception to the 6th commandment that isn't there. That exception is : We love each other. Love is often used today as an exception clause for just about anything under the sun today.
We love each other.... so we are having sex
We love each other.... so we are living together.
We love the children...so we are getting a divorce.
But in reality these are not exceptions, instead they are excuses for why we want to disobey God. There are no exceptions written into God's laws. There are no "if X then the law does not apply". We are all guilty of breaking it.
Another form of exception-ism we can fall victim too is even more deadlier than the former version. This form says that I am exception to God's love and grace. Even though the Bible is chuck full of stories of horrible people having their sins forgiven, we tend to view ourselves as somehow worse than them and an exception to God's grace. Here a just a few of the Bibles "sinner-saints"
Noah - alcoholic
Abraham - idolater, liar , adulterer (has sex with his wife's servant and later abandons Ishmael)
Sarah - doubts God's promise, gives her servant to Abraham and then has her sent away
Jacob - liar, extortionist, cheater
Moses - murderer (kills Egyptian slave owner with his own hands)
Rahab - a prostitute who helps them take down Jericho and becomes a ancestor of David/Jesus
David - adultery, murder, lying (and he was supposed to be a man after God's own heart)
Solomon - over 1000 concubines who lead him astray to worship other gods
Woman caught in adultery - Jesus forgives fully
Samaritan woman - Jesus forgives though she is married 5 times and is living with a man
Peter - abandons Jesus and yells down curses on himself when question by a servant girl
Disciples - all abandon Jesus and run away and hide
Thief - the thief on the cross next to Jesus who Jesus gives certainty of eternal life with him
Paul - formerly called Saul who went after Christians and murdered them in God's name
Many of these men even "knew better" when they committed their sins against God and God forgave them all their sins out of his grace and mercy. Yet somehow we think we are worse than them. We have somehow found the one sin God cannot forgive. Out of the BILLIONS of BILLIONS of BILLIONS of sins committed since time began which God can forgive, we have found the one EXCEPTION that he cannot forgive. We believe we are an exception to God's love.
ISN'T THAT RIDICULOUS??
This is why God chose these people in the first place. To show US his boundless mercy. Paul writes in Romans,
"Where sin abounds ... GOD'S GRACE ABOUNDS MORE!!"So you think you have sinned too much? God has a message for you; You haven't! A problem with us humans is that we have a problem with grasping the idea of infinity. Scientists talk about the ever expanding universe. But "Expanding into what??" we ask. It boggles the mind. Maybe God made it that way to show us just how immense his grace is! His grace is ever expanding like the universe...swallowing up whatever sins we might have committed in order to show how great he is!
Yes, of course, this does not give us a "license to commit sin" (like 007 has a license to kill), but it frees us from the fear of God's retribution and being frozen in our tracks from living for him. We can live in complete confidence that we are his children and nothing can take us from his hands.