The Hypothetical Sinner

There is a hypothetical situation I hear brought up a surprising amount. It goes something like this: ‘a horrible murderer does something terrible to myself or my family. He is sentenced to execution. Minutes before the lethal injection, he repents of his sins and gives his life over to Christ. Should that man’s salvation be taken seriously? Should he really be given the same Heaven that I, or my family, should get?”

Before I answer anything about this question, I want to point out that the penalty for this murderer’s sins were NOT avoided. They were much steeper than the injection, in fact. They included a blindfold, vinegar, nails, thorns, a leaded whip, and heavy, rough-hewn wood. They involved public humiliation, being spat on, being beat up, and being tortured to death. And they were all fulfilled by Jesus, who has volunteered to be a sacrifice for this man’s sins. So the justice you crave has not been denied to you one bit; it’s been bled out, severely, humiliatingly, over the course of many, many hours. The problem in your heart is that you expected this sentence to be carried out on the body of the murderer, not on the body of your Lord.

But think of it this way – all through the legal process, this murderer has had access to government-granted rights, which you also share. These include, among other things, the right to legal counsel, the right to be spared punishment deemed overly cruel or unusual, the right to food, and so forth. You would not realistically want these rights taken away from the murderer because, of course, you or someone you love may someday be arrested, and you want these rights to be applicable to you and yours. These are rights for all American citizens. Now, just as this man has his American rights, he has spiritual rights. The worse he has sinned, and the less life he has left, the more impossible it becomes for him to pay that debt he owes to God. The only options left to the man are atonement or Hell, and he has chosen atonement. God has granted him and all others the ability to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for forgiveness of sins. And if some colossal sinner decides, at the very end of life, that he wants that wonderful forgiveness, then yes, he escapes the pain of his sins and receives a joy which he has not earned. But NONE of us were ever good enough to deserve eternal joy, not a one of us. You may have led a decent life, you may deserve some joy, but eternal joy? A perfect life? In the presence of the most holy of all beings? Even the most precursory self-searching should show that you no more belong in God’s Heavenly court than a potato! And actually that potato would have a much better claim than you!

The fact that you – and others – receive salvation should not be an upset to you. It makes happy the heart of God. You, as someone who cares about God, should try to share his happiness when a sinner repents, even if it is difficult for you yourself to forgive. You can separate your pain, grieve what has happened, and thirst for resolution. But please, do not become angry that God shows mercy, because he shows it to all. And your only comfort out of this tragedy may be to try to share God’s joy in watching one less soul go to Hell. After all, a thousand years from now, I would much rather see my enemy in peaceful service and communion with those I love, giving love to them in return, than watch his pointless suffering for a sin already paid for. And if he chose repentance and salvation, that is the outcome that his soul craves, too, even if his decision was made under duress.

So if it bothers you that every “customer’s” debt has been paid, you should examine your soul, and your relationship to Christ. Because the start of a relationship with Christ is to realize he died for your sins; maturity involves realizing that he died for the sins committed against you.

God bless you, and have a good weekend.

Please message the author for scriptural references.

Naked

Maybe I’m just crazy for thinking about this one, but it’s something I’m surprised that I’ve never heard discussed…

It is actually very comforting to me to know that, in some moments of life, God has been naked. Out of all the words we could pick to describe God, it’s probably one of the last we would ever think of, just as its the last we might pick to describe any great person who has, by human necessity, been, at some point, naked. But it points to something important in our faith: God has truly taken the time to be vulnerable.

There have been other gods who have been naked, to be sure. Especially with the Greek gods, there were frequent macabre displays of gods showing off their masculine prowess, most especially by raping or seducing human women. As a woman, I always wondered how any woman could wholeheartedly practice any of these religions. If you were beautiful and a virgin – or really, any woman – how did you develop trust and intimacy with a god you knew would gladly take advantage of you?

Jesus was the opposite. While he readily accepted the beautiful and the pure, he just as readily accepted the rest. He drew women who were sexually dysfunctional, loose, used, and downtrodden (John 8:3-11, Matthew 21:31-32, Luke 7:36-50). He enchanted prostitutes and adulterers, people who were possibly prior sex abuse victims, or were at least destroying their own lives with sex. And to each one of these women, he expressed peace, he expressed interest, and he expressed genuine love. He established intimacy with them, even physical intimacy, in ways that were acceptable to God (Luke 7:36-50, Mark 5:24-36, Matthew 28:9) And he behaved himself. Surrounded by women who were sexually immoral and looking for solace, women he could have easily used, he put his own needs aside, establishing purity and validation in the process. Despite what some pop culture movies say, Jesus probably died a virgin. He definitely didn’t fornicate, and while marital sex is blessed by God, Jesus probably put aside his chance at happiness in a normal human marriage as well (2 Corinthians 5:21a)(John 7:3-5, John 19:25, Mark 16:16)(Revelations 19:7-8, Ephesians 5:22-32).

Remember that, in a world where so many people suffer forms of sexual abuse, the Son of God carefully chose the manner and the steps of how he would die (1 Peter 1:11, Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-54). And when it was time for him to take on the full suffering of humankind, one of the steps he deliberately chose for this suffering was to have his clothes removed – not in some kind of display of masculinity, but as a form of shame and humiliation. Just think  – for anyone who has ever been sexually abused or shamed for their body in any way, who calls on the name of the Lord – they call on someone who distinctly remembers being stripped naked in front of onlookers who spat on him and drove nails through his body. What an incredible depth of sympathy, to have someone to talk to who has been physically shamed. We as women, as victims, as all the different people from different walks of life who have been scarred, we talk to a God who has been through terrible pain, humiliation, and yes, nakedness. And while many people in the world think that God is just “made up”, I could not have made up a God that was more wonderfully accessible.

God bless you.

Morgan Grace Hart

Superman and Nuclear Warheads

Did you ever see the Superman movies that came out in the 80’s? Spoiler alert: at the climax of the fourth movie, Superman rids the Earth of a nuclear warhead by throwing it into the Sun. The warhead, while devestatingly powerful here, vaporized when it hit the magnificent mass and burning power of the Sun. God, like the Sun, is pure and powerful; with Holy fire. No matter how huge our sins, no matter how destructive they are or could become, they are no match for God. When I confess my sins to Him, they transfer from me to Him, and they are vaporized while still in transit. He has already paid for all of them, and in the face of such love, they are utterly diminished.

God Bless You, and have a good weekend.