Prostitution. Murder. Adultery. Lies. Betrayal. Drunkenness.
Sound like an episode of your favourite series on Netflix?
Yup! It also sounds exactly like the Bible and you don’t even have to make it all the way through season 1. These are all covered in just the first book. It puts House of Cards to shame, does it not?
I remember when I was a little girl I thought that people who smoked could never be right with God. I assumed a beer in the fridge at the house I babysat meant that those people clearly were heading straight for hell. I was a by-product of growing up in the church and thinking that life had to look a certain way in order to be used by God. In order to be in right standing with Him. In order for him to nod your way or pat you on the head and hail you as good enough.
I still can’t fathom how I didn’t see it. It’s plain as day right there in the scriptures. Page after page of horrific behaviour. Story after story of debauchery and sin. Life after life of poor decisions and self-serving motives and downright evil!
Oh, and did I mention that these were the actions of the people of God? Because they were.
My mind instantly likes to think that these were the bad guys. The ones who God used as an example of how not to live. The drunkards and the thieves and the sexually immoral, these must be the ones God will strike down with a word. The stories that should scare us away from this sort of behaviour and right into a life of trying to be good enough.
But no. These were God’s people. His chosen. The ones listed in Hebrews as heroes of faith!
Heard of a guy named Noah? Sure. Because, by faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family .(Hebrews 11:7) But he was also found passed out, naked and drunk. (Genesis 9:20)
How about Abraham? By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8) But he was also a repeat liar, choosing to speak untruths and drag his wife into it with him because he was scared. (Genesis 20:12)
Moses? By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25) Need I mention this was after he straight up killed a man? (Exodus 2:12)
Before us women start feeling a bit self-righteous in it all perhaps I should mention Rahab the prositute? Or Sarah? Who laughed at God and in so doing basically called him a liar?
I see now, so many years later, what I didn’t as a child. I see that I can’t point a finger at these people and deem them ‘bad’. I see that I can’t judge their lives and damn them to hell. I see that I can’t scoff and shake my head and feel pity on them for just not seeing the right way. I can’t build myself up for being better than them. I can’t self-righteously look at them and wish they had just made the wise decisions that I have in my life.
Christian pity is a deadly game. It creates an us vs. them mentality, all the while breeding arrogance and judgement.
What I see now is so different. It’s incredible to me how much a new lens changes the entire view and casts a new light on it all. I see that I AM these people. I am the liar and the cheater and the mocker of God. I am the one who makes things up because I’m scared. I am the murderer and the adulterer and the prostitute. I am the drunkard and the thief.
I am no different. I am no better.
Each day I sin against a Holy and righteous God and each day I plead for forgiveness. Each day He welcomes me back into His arms. Each day He holds me close and though I fall on my knees proclaiming how unworthy I am, He wipes me clean.
And let’s be clear, I am unworthy. As was Moses and Abraham and Sarah and David. Sinners, the lot of us. Never good enough. Never strong enough. Never with enough will-power to muscle our way through.
When we see this in ourselves, that we can’t hold ourselves in higher esteem, that we can’t point a finger, that we can’t look in disgust at the actions of another because we are just the same, it’s then that we can understand grace and forgiveness. It’s then that we can see that we didn’t earn our way here by not drinking or smoking or stealing. It’s only by the mercy of Jesus that any of us are forgiven, the murderers, the adulterers, the liars and cheats. In short, you and me.
Nothing is too big for Him. No sin is too grand. No life too lost. No heart too far away.