Imagine the most gracious person you know. Someone who is always kind and patient with you, hard to offend, listens well, sees good in you that you miss, holds a higher opinion of you than you do. They might correct you when necessary, but they do so gently, and there’s never any doubt that they still believe in you. Their influence has only been positive.
It might be a best friend, a mentor, ideally a parent or grandparent. Whomever it is (I highlighted the correct letter for the grammar nerds), you feel safe and welcomed in their presence, even if you’ve made a mistake. You know, from your long experience, that they see more good in you than you do in yourself, and that they’ll be very hard to drive away.
Jesus Christ is better than that person.
He has more of everything that you value and appreciate about that person.
That really does take some of us aback. Especially the “hard to offend” and “sees good in you” parts (John 1:47).
For many of us, God is little more than the Cosmic Fault-Finder. And to be sure, he does point out sin. He’s allowed to get angry with us when we provoke him. He’s God.
But the manner in which he deals with us, from our good moments right down to our very worst, is laid out very clearly in Scripture.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145:8)
We know this verse. But our instincts operate as if the Lord is strict and detached, quick to anger, withholding his love for the few who “get it right” and receive a pulpit to tell others how they did it.
In the words of a former pastor of mine, “Why do we take the worst qualities of human beings and attribute them to God?”
Last night, an eloquent young man taught our youth group about how Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus foreknew it and still chose Peter as a companion for his betrayal in Gethsemane. After his resurrection, Jesus not only forgave Peter three times (once for each betrayal) but did so in exceedingly great measure – by extending him the leadership of the church. And when the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers in Jerusalem, Peter – the guy who had broken Christ’s command not to deny him before men – was not excluded.
We, stubbornly operating out of our human value systems, rarely think we have the right to approach Jesus after a sin. We instinctively think he allows only “with-it” folks into his presence. But that’s the opposite of true. The gospels are jam-packed with people whose awareness of their sin drives them to the feet of Jesus. That’s exactly where we should be driven. It’s our enemy who would see our sin drive us away from Jesus.
An amazing thing, grace.
God is perfect and infinite. Therefore, any good quality in him exists in infinitely greater measure than it does in any human being. God cannot be less gracious than a human; no human can be more gracious than him.
And if the penalty of sin has been taken away from you through faith in Christ, totally and permanently (Romans 4:5-8), he has nothing left to show you except grace. Even in discipline, David saw God as more merciful than men (1 Chronicles 21:13).
I hope that will change how you see him.
Perhaps you belong to him, but it’s been a while since you spoke with him or felt worthy to enter his presence. Perhaps you’re sick of his standards, but know deep down that your stance isn’t terribly impressive in his eyes, so you just kind of shy away.
You’re welcome to return to him (Luke 15). At any time.
If you have never repented, you are welcome to meet him for the first time. He will not turn away even the filthiest of rap sheets.
Why would the most gracious person in the universe do that?