“Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Romans 2:3-4 NLT
How do we know that God is “kind, tolerant, and patient” with us? We sometimes joke about a bolt of lightning from Heaven zapping an outrageously-behaving person, who is blatantly engaged in some sin or other. And on many occasions, such an event would be well deserved. But Paul reminded the Roman Christians that such divine kindness should be turning them from their sins, even though they deserve judgement.
To turn this around to our own lives, how does God’s patience make us change? Through honest self-examination we can discover many a sinful thought that deserves punishment. There is, of course, a response that says something like, “I’ll sort out my life before I die, so I’ll be ok”, hoping, or assuming, that we will have control over such an event one day. Jesus warned against such an attitude with His parable about “the Rich Fool”. I know it applies to the folly of accumulating wealth, but the principle is the same. We read in Luke 12:20-21, ““But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”” We don’t know when we will pass from this life, but once we do, the option to turn from our sins dies with us. God’s grace comes to an end at the grave or crematorium. We also don’t know when the end of the world will come. The last question put to Jesus by the disciples, before He ascended into Heaven was recorded in Acts 1:6, with Jesus’ reply in the following verse, “So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”
Another response is to try and rationalise our moral and sinful lapses. Perhaps we say that they aren’t really all that bad – in fact they are nowhere near as bad as the behaviour of that man or woman down the road, we say to ourselves. But the fact remains – we only have a limited opportunity to respond to God’s grace-infused, divine kindness and patience.
God’s kind and tolerant response to our many sins is summed up by one word – grace. We read in Ephesians 1:7-8, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding”. If there is anyone who can lay claim to God’s grace, it was the Apostle Paul. He was a walking, talking example and testimony to the grace of God. There Paul was, persecuting the early church with a zeal that, if he failed to have that encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, would have inflicted significant damage on those young Christians, but the grace of God was so powerful that he found it irresistible, and we must pray the same grace, which is still available today, will come and infuse our families and communities. The grace of God knocked Paul off his horse. We pray that it will knock down the arguments and excuses offered by those around us, that they too will find a way into the presence of God.
Dear Father God. We can say or do nothing without kneeling in worship before You, deeply grateful for your kindness, tolerance and patience. Deeply grateful for Your grace. Amen.