A hypothetical situation
A hypothetical situation, made up only for purposes of illustration:
An elderly gentleman stopped at the local gas station to fill up his tank, and to grab a cup of decaffeinated coffee. The "real stuff" keeps him awake, you know. He "paid at the pump" -- he may be up in years, but he's still a modern gentleman, and then went inside to buy the coffee. While he was standing at the cash register, counting out the correct change, a young man entered the store. This man looked frantic, angry and mean. He pulled out a gun, pointed it at the clerk, and demanded the contents of the cash drawer. The clerk hurried to comply.Before I start my questions, understand that I have every sympathy for the older man, and hope that that younger (hypothetical) man meets justice.
The young man didn't like the look on the face of the elderly gentleman. Maybe it was pity - maybe it was disbelief - maybe it was just fear, but the young man leveled the gun at the older gentleman, and shot him in the chest. The criminal then ran out of the gas station.
The clerk, while not ready to tackle an armed robber, was quick to call 911, and an ambulance arrived within minutes, transporting the elderly gentleman to the hospital. He received prompt and effective care which barely saved his life. For the rest of his life, though, he will be unable to walk, to drive his car, to dance with his wife or to stroll through his garden. He is angry, and it will take many years before he is able to begin to set aside the hatred that he feels for this young man who shot him.
At the end of this story, who is a sinner in the eyes of God? Both of the men. One, the younger man, who shot and almost killed a fellow human being, robbed a store, and fled, unrepentant. The other, the older gentleman, who carries hatred in his heart for an enemy. Believe me, I don't stand here as a judge, but as a fellow sinner, recognizing the illness of sin.
Which sin is bigger? Neither of them. Sin is sin.
Which has larger consequences? The sin of the younger man, I think. While I do believe that sin is sin, I also believe that some consequences of sin are more costly than others.
Which man has God forgiven? Both of them have already been forgiven by God. This was a discussion last night in our last Grace class. My belief is that forgiveness and grace are gifts. Free. They are not earned by repentance. They are gifts, waiting to be received. For the grace to have a transformational effect on a person's life, then it needs to be accepted, and that may require the healing process of repentance. But repentance is not the cost of forgiveness. Forgiveness has already been granted. Can the elderly gentleman forgive the young man, even if the young man is not repentant? Yes, he can. And he is urged to do this by God. If we believe that, then why can't we believe that God himself will follow this advice. The sin is forgiven. Just because we do not accept the love of God, does not mean it does not exist. Just because we don't ask to be loved by God, doesn't mean he isn't loving us already.
Does God grant more grace or more love to the elderly gentleman than to the younger man? No. God loves them both. This was another discussion from last night. God wants both of them to reach healing and wholeness. He sent his son to die for both of them. We don't want it to be that way. We want God's love to be fair, because we think we deserve it more than an armed robber. We do not. We continually say, "hate the sin but love the sinner." If we espouse that, if we think that that is the way that God wants us to live (never mind the arrogance of the statement), then why can't we believe that God is capable of doing that?
God love us all -- we are all sinners -- we are all already forgiven. It's grace, and it's amazing, and why can't we seem to grasp it? To believe it? Why do we insist that God is less capable of loving than we are?