What are we supposed to do with Christians who claim the faith publicly and then turn around and abuse others in the name of God? What are we to do with those times when, perhaps, we have claimed the faith and then turned around and hurt our neighbor, or even just withheld love? What happens to people who are baptized as infants and then turn completely away from God as they grow up?

One helpful way to frame questions of this sort is to look at grace. John Wesley stood in the long tradition of the church when he preached on the four graces of God. These graces are not independent and often overlap, but the names are helpful for us to understand how God works in us to transform our lives. 

The first grace is prevenient grace, which means the grace that comes before. This is the Holy Spirit in our life from before we are even aware of God. The second is justifying grace, which is the grace which makes us right with God, taking away the stain of original sin. The third is sanctifying grace, which is the grace that helps us grow in holiness that we can truly be the people we were created to be, that we can be emptied of all but love. The last is glorifying grace, this is the grace reserved for those blessed to be in the final presence of God in the new creation. 

Justifying grace is roughly equivalent to the sacrament of Baptism. In Baptism we are cleansed and we enter into the community of faith. Justification, though, is not the final step of faith. With sanctifying grace, we are drawn closer into the life of God, but we are not robots in this. We are not puppets and God is not the puppet master toying with us at his whim. God is like the shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep. For a sheep to be lost, the sheep has to already be in the fold of the shepherd, right? Jesus doesn't say that the kingdom of heaven is like a shepherd who goes out to domesticate wild sheep and then they never stray again. Sheep stray and God seeks the lost and brings them home.

We should not try to stray but we should not give up hope when we sin after receiving the justifying grace of God in Baptism. We should not give up when someone we love falls away from the faith. 

This is the point of Article XII of the Articles of Religion. Not every sin is a sin against the Holy Spirit (alluding to Gospel passages like Mark 3:28-30). Hope is not lost when we stray. God does not forsake us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. We have the ultimate freedom to separate ourselves from God by choosing pride over love, but God gives us every chance to turn back to him and to accept the mercy God has in store for all. 

Article XII — Of Sin After Justification

Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.