As I said in a sermon recently, we have swung the pendulum the other direction and become unwilling to show the challenge that Jesus gives his followers. In this particular context I was preaching on Jonah, where Jonah defies God and runs and is quickly in a Perfect Storm and by the end of Chapter 1 is swallowed by a Big Fish. Here's the deal Jonah's repentance is an extraordinary story of grace and mercy as much as it is a story of challenge to Jonah. What we see as a challenge or the "negative" side to religion is not seen the same way to God. If one of my children runs after their ball going into the street and I stop them at the last minute, they may be upset that their ball got run over, but I am relieved it wasn't them. The same is true of God and us and at a much deeper level.
We have to preach a gracious and merciful God who is the definition of unconditional love. And we need to preach that we should be people who live like that is true. We live that way through our actions, our thoughts, our words, and our love. I'm not saying we create a factory that creates perfect people. What we are doing is living God's dream for us in the midst of this broken world that surrounds us.
God is the hero. We are one in need of a savior. We are saved and therefore live a life of devotion to God and love. We love Him and Love the people He loves. We live for God and live the love that He has. This is the balance. Grace and Reverence. Mercy and REsponsibility. Freedom and choice.