He just got what he deserved
We have probably heard someone say that. Maybe we’ve said it ourselves, concluding that s/he had it coming to them.
God (and His grace) isn’t fair
Why should someone (like the penitent thief crucified beside Jesus) at the last minute get a free pass into heaven after having lived a rotten life? But wouldn’t being welcomed into heaven at the ‘death knell’ by way of a free pass be clear evidence of God’s graciousness?
His forgiveness refers to God’s pardon of the sins of human beings. And does not His forgiveness precede His tender acceptance of our confession and repentance?
No religious book except the Bible teaches that God fully forgives sin. The initiative comes from Him. To be forgiven so, is to be identified with Jesus in His crucifixion and resurrection (per Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
We anxiously watched the sports news. To his credit, disgraced Aussie cricket captain Steve Smith wasted no time in ‘facing the music’ by promptly meeting the press soon after arriving home from Cape Town, SA.
He did that after playing his part in the unsporting fiasco of the ball tampering debacle. Cheating cuts to the heart of, and is the very antithesis of the level-playing-field-contest, which is sport.
Steve was obviously shattered, being deeply disappointed with himself. It had clearly sunk in that he had lost much having severely tarnished both his good name and role model to young Aussies, and put his career in jeopardy because of one pressured moment.
It has been a high fall from grace. And even though he is such a great player, he may never play for Oz again.
God says: Let…faithfulness never leave you; bind it around your neck, write it on the tablet of your heart. “Then” you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs chapter 3 verses 3&4).
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs chapter 22 verse 1).
During his sad, emotional press conference Steve expressed the hope that in time he might be able to do enough to receive the public’s forgiveness for his actions.
The Biblical perspective
During a church service the following Easter Sunday, the preacher (a self-confessed ‘cricket tragic’) made the point that forgiveness cannot be earned. He noted that man did not (and could not) do anything to earn God’s forgiveness.
Everyone knows that Steve is a cricketer not a trained theologian, and all would readily acknowledge that none of us are any better than him and he is no worse than us. Of course we are never going to be tempted in the specific way he was during that moment of panic about the scoreboard.
The preacher noted that God gave man His forgiveness and that out of love and grace, none of which was deserved and for which we are and always will be, unworthy.
The Biblical truth
“When” you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians chapter 2 verse 13).
Note the time frame here.
God didn’t have to but He did. His forgiveness could only ever be an unmerited gift.
Mum knows that Biblical truth
Mum says to her unhappy regretful crying youngster who has done wrong: ‘Mummy forgives you. Now give me a cuddle’.
If Steve might be able to ‘do enough to receive the public’s forgiveness’ by subsequent good behaviour or by spending time in the ‘sin bin’, then permission given to re-enter the fold would become something in the nature of reward for effort made or time served.
Grace -v- fairness
The grace of God is far removed from human fairness: we sometimes say 'there but by the grace of God go I’. His grace is a divine/heavenly/God quality. Fairness is much less, being merely related to the rubbery human understanding of justice.
Jesus told the story that the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner who hired men in the marketplace to go and work in his vineyard, hiring workmen at various times throughout the day right up ‘till the eleventh hour.
Those who were hired early begrudged those hired late receiving the same pay.
But God (the landowner) replied: Don’t I have the right…Or are you envious because I am generous? (Matthew chapter 20 verse 15).
Grace in action
This parable (a simple story from ordinary life having deep spiritual meaning) teaches that salvation is solely due to God’s grace and love. It has nothing to do with human fairness.
Does His grace and forgiveness stem from weakness? Not at all. Rather, from long suffering and great strength.
Imagine the whole of mankind is standing on the ‘world oval’. One here and another there raises their hand after hearing and accepting God’s word. So He graciously lifts that person to eternal life.
He only does that for those who so respond to Jesus’ voice.
Will they or won’t they?
Just as eternal heavenly rest is a gift from God, so is His forgiveness in the first place. All anyone can do is accept it or reject it.
Will the public forgive Steve? Time will tell. Will Aussies accept the offer of God’s hand-up from above? That’s up to the hearer. Time alone will tell that too.
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW Australia and author of the book: 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism'. He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grandparents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html