Though the notion of forgiveness gushes out of the Scriptures like water from an open fire hydrant, Christians will at times push their hands over the spout with choking the flow of grace down to a secular trickle.
For example, many Christians welcome the new convert who choose Christ instead of a life on the streets. But they offer little sympathy to the gang member suffering unjustly in prison. After all, he should have made better choices. The church embraces the repentant woman who choses Jesus and instead of alcohol. But they care little for the woman who cries for help after spending a lifetime of Sunday mornings hungover in bed. Christendom cares for the young man who chooses abstinence instead of moving in his with his girlfriend. But it scowls at the man seeking help after his body has been shredded by sexually transmitted diseases and a lifetime of unstable relationships. Christians reach out to those who manage a degree of respectability but often close their eyes to cries of those who have mocked, trashed, and soiled the commands of God.
The thinking proceeds as follows: Had he not been with the wrong crowd, he never would have been imprisoned in the first place. Had she only listened to her parents; she would not be in the predicament she is in. Had he only obeyed the Bible; this all could have been avoided. Forgiveness reaches it limit. As the Christian mind considers these things, the hand of deliverance remains clinched inside the pocket of self-righteousness.
Though humans withhold grace, God does not. Psalm 107:11-3 reports,
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
God rescues those who destroy their lives through their sin. He cares about the unjust who suffer injustices. Those who find themselves struggling at low end jobs because they cheated in college or committed crimes in their teenage years find forgiveness when they call to God for help.
They are not alone. A few verse later in Psalm 107:17-20, the Psalmist writes,
Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. He saves those who hated his commandments when they call to him
Some men and women suffer sickness and all kinds of harm because they went along with society, embracing sinful sexual norms, drinking practices, and eating habits. They pushed the body to extremes and then suffered a host of serious medical problems. Though they ran to sin instead of truth, God still offers them mercy, sending his Word of life to all who ask for help. He heals those who disobeyed his Word. God’s mercy knows no qualifications or limits. All who call to him find salvation.
Salvation comes not because of our righteousness, but because Christ gives us his righteousness. He lived the perfect life that we could not, died on the cross, and then rose from the dead so that he could give his righteousness to all who ask. Salvation depends not upon our past but upon Christ’s past.
If God offers salvation unconditionally, his followers must extend deliverance unconditionally. Christians cannot turn a bind eye to the injustices of the criminal justice system, because it contains a lot of ‘bad people.’ Christians cannot wash their hands of alcoholics, drug addicts, and those trapped in sexual sin because these men and women foolishly destroyed their bodies. God saves them without reserve when they call to Him. When sinners plead with us for help, the Christians should rush to their aid, seeking to deliver sinners from the miseries of the spiritual and physical world. The love of God’s people should not depend upon the hurting person’s past or demographic realities. Christians should extend a gracious hand of deliverance to all who are in need regardless of the man or women’s past or race. Our God extends mercy freely. We must as well. We need to leave the fire hydrants open.
How are we doing?