The humorist Garrison Keillor told a story that happened when he was about ten. One hot summer morning his mother made him go to the garden to pick tomatoes.
At about the same time he saw an enormous tomato among the vines, already starting to rot on the bottom. With his first burst of enthusiasm that morning he picked it then aimed at his sister’s bottom.
Just at that moment his mother saw him and yelled. He weighed the joy of obedience against the joy of hearing the giant tomato splat against sister’s rear end and … well, you can guess which voice won out.
Bullseye! The kid took off at full speed but his sister was much faster. The enraged teenager caught him and was just going to even the score when their mother yelled again.
His sister wrestled within her because she really wanted to rearrange his face but the voice of obedience won out in her.
But somehow you want to say, “If there is any justice in the world she would have hit him. Little brothers are royal pains and they deserve what they get.” (Big brothers, on the other hand, are kind, loyal, intelligent, trustworthy, etc.)
You know what? You want to say that if there is justice in the universe, God would have smashed me. I was a sinner from the womb of my mother, but worse, I sinned all by myself, expressing the rebellion that was in my heart.
“… we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2 :3, NIV)
“Objects of his wrath?” Sinner before a holy God! Looks like we’ve had it, huh. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death and it’s not just talking about a little trip to the funeral home. It speaks of an eternal death, horribly separated from the presence of God. Anyway, we were already dead spiritually.
In this situation we wait for an explosion of God’s righteous anger. “I put them on a perfect world and look at the now—war, abuse of the land—they don’t even want to obey me. They abuse their bodies; they scoff at my laws. They’re mean, sometimes even violent!
“So, it’s finished! I’ll slap them like mosquitos; I’ll crush them like flies!”
That’s would seem the logical way for God to act. But this sorry story of Ephesians 2:1-3 is followed by two of the most powerful words in the Bible.
“But God …”
It seems like I always understood God’s anger. If God was mad at me, He was right. I can remember lying in bed at four years of age thinking, “I’d like to go to heaven, but I think I’ll probably go to hell.”
I didn’t understand God or his love.
“But God …”
He isn’t like me. His great heart of compassion beat painfully. He’s rich in mercy. Those who think God is a huge tyrant haven’t even begun to understand Him.
It was this love and mercy that drove Jesus to the Cross. We underestimate the horror of our sin. It’s like someone said, “If there had been another way to settle this debt would you have sent your son to the Cross?” The weight of our sin cried for an unprecedented sacrifice.
The price He paid was both horrible and beautiful—beautiful beyond description.
We deserved God’s wrath but it fell on his Son instead. His righteousness and his love fell on us.
There’s nothing left to pay because Jesus erased the debt against us. And our reaction to that?
Because we’re new creatures by our faith in Christ, we work to help others in His name and we proclaim this Good News everywhere in the world.
“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!” (Eph. 1:1-5, The Message)
“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham