Ethics is often seen as an afterthought, a tidying up, an appendix to the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection for us. Oh, by the way, now that you've heard and accepted all the great gifts of God to us in Christ, he also wants you to live a certain way, to stop doing certain things, to start doing other things, to think and feel particular things. It can feel as though, having started with grace, with God's free gift, we then shift gears and have to start making our contribution. Perhaps we have to show how thankful we are for what God has done. Perhaps we need to make sure that having been welcomed into God's family by grace, we manage to not stuff things up. He's given you a second chance, so make sure he doesn't have to give you a third.
No, all these approaches are disastrous. God has saved us not only out of love, but into love. That is, his love is not only the motivation for his redemptive work, it is also the content of its goal. The goal of salvation is that we become God's children, not only as the objects of his love, but as those who share in it, who imitate their father's perfection, who love because and as he first loved us.
"[A]ll Christian action is a privilege, not an obligation, since we are God's children."
- Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Nine Propositions on Christian Ethics"
in Principles of Christian Morality (trans. Graham Harrison;
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986 ), 77.
"A belief in Christian ethics is a belief that certain ethical and moral judgements belong to the gospel itself; a belief, in other words, that the church can be committed to ethics without moderating the tone of its voice as a bearer of glad tidings."
- Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order
(second edition; Leicester, England: Eerdmans, 1994 ), 12.