This week I engaged in multiple theologically deep conversations with my 3 three-year-old. Which, if you’ve never done it, is one of the most mentally taxing things you can do. Ever.
One conversation began with this question, “Momma, will there be bad guys in heaven?” Ummmmmmm. “Well, it depends on what you mean by bad guys. Compared to God we’re all bad guys!” (He was very adamant that he wasn’t a bad guy! We’ll keep working on that one.)
My fella’s sense of injustice was elevated. He didn’t deserve to be included in that group! He wasn’t THAT bad. His voice got louder as he protested. And he became quite adamant.
Why Our Hearts Are Furious
It was the perfect picture of a heart not yet ready to see its need of God’s grace. A heart that was furious that God wouldn’t see his moral conduct as better than others. A heart that struggled with the idea that anyone who trusted in Jesus would be forgiven and welcomed.
He’s not the first to struggle with this kind of heart. Neither am I.
We respond this way when we haven’t seen ourselves as God does. When we haven’t seen that we need God’s grace to the same extent as “the bad guys.”
We want a punishment that fits the crime. We withhold good, generosity and love. Our default is to give others what they earn, what they deserve.
People’s Hearts Have Always Been Furious
The Bible is filled with people who struggled with this perspective. Many (including religious leaders) were aghast at God’s grace towards Mary Magdalene and Zaccheus. They couldn’t understand why Jesus wasn’t punishing, withholding good, giving what was deserved.
I wonder what they would have thought had they known that Jesus promised the thief beside him life in paradise that very day. They probably would have been horrified. And then furious. Why?
Their hearts didn’t understand grace. Didn’t understand the generosity of God. Didn’t understand that God gives Himself based solely on Himself, not on anything about us. Because isn’t that what grace really is?
God Has Always Shown Grace
They should have known it though. This idea is interwoven throughout the entire Old Testament. Over the last month, I’ve seen these words everywhere,
It’s in multiple places in the Psalms. God said these words to Moses. They’re found in Nehemiah. And again, in Joel and Jonah. Grace has been God’s default since before time began.
God knew before the foundation of the world that Jesus would come to earth as both the exhibitor and executor of God’s grace.
Maybe then, it’s not that we don’t know what God is like, but that we don’t like it.
Grace Made Jonah Furious
This is really the essence of Jonah’s issue with God. He resists preaching to Nineveh not because he has something better to do or because he was fighting to have his own way. Jonah knew God. He knew He was gracious and kind and forgiving.
And Jonah knew the Ninevites. He knew they were wicked and vile. They were “the bad guys.” And Jonah didn’t want them to experience God’s grace. Read what he does after seeing Nineveh repent and God promise to withhold judgment,
Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! (Jonah 4:1-2 MSG)
Jonah didn’t like God’s grace when it was given to those he thought were undeserving. But the reality is that we are ALL undeserving in the eyes of God.
God doesn’t see good guys and bad guys. He only sees those who have accepted His grace by trusting in Jesus and those who are still in need of His grace.
Where is Your Heart?
Think of people your heart sees as undeserving of God’s grace. Those living a different lifestyle than you. Those with a different political view than you. Those who are living from the wounds and scars of a lifetime of hurt and shame.
You and I need God’s grace to the same extent they do. God longs to give Himself to them just as He longs to give Himself to you.
God can change our hearts that are so quick to be furious. Will you ask Him to do it in you?
This post is the continuation of monthly musings on my 1 Word for 1 Year: grace. Read other posts on grace and 1 Word | 1 Year here.