Faith & Worship: Forgiveness – for them?!

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry…And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” Jonah 3: 10 – 4:1, 11

“Jesus Christ does not save the worthy, but the unworthy.” (Charles Spurgeon)

On Jan. 24, 2018 former Michigan State University doctor and USA Olympic doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years (and counting) in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 women athletes (and counting) over the span of two decades. I believe that what he did was sinful, disgusting, and that his sentence was warranted. The lives that were impacted and victimized may never fully recover. It’s absolutely terrible.

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The judge who handled the case was relentless in her pursuit of justice, saying some of the most sobering words I believe a man or woman could ever hear on this earth: “I’ve just signed your death warrant.” In so many words, she said hope for Dr. Nassar was lost.

I read a number of comments by angry and hurting people on social media feeds and articles across the country regarding the sentencing of the man, comments that I can’t repeat. People were screaming for the death penalty and even harsher sentences. As I read the comments, and heard the feelings of countless people expressing their thoughts on the trial, I had these thoughts myself: He deserves death. He deserves condemnation. He deserves hell. He should suffer.

Yet God spoke to my heart and quickly reminded me: So did you. I came to forgive, heal and save men like him and you. Don’t degrade or discount My grace for your sense of self-righteousness. I saved you to tell people like him about what I have offered through the Gospel. No one is outside of My rescuing.

That bothered me. I can’t lie. What God revealed to my heart that day truly disturbed me. I thought: How can I possibly be compared to him? I didn’t do what he did. I didn’t commit a crime. I’m not deserving of a life sentence in prison. In a moment of fleshly weakness, I had forgotten the purpose of my salvation and freedom in Christ. I had forgotten what was done for me when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave. I had forgotten that my sins merited condemnation eternally in hell. My heart had grown callous to the greatest need anyone ever had – the need of salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Don’t read me wrong. Dr. Nassar sinned, and his actions fit the consequence of his sentencing, but for me to have the audacity to feel that he was too far in sin for him to be saved was wrong. In Scripture, we read about an angry, prideful, and reluctant prophet named Jonah. As the account of Jonah opens up, we see that God wanted Jonah to go to a sinful and wicked city called Nineveh and declare His Word. Jonah vehemently refused to go.

Instead of being obedient, he tried to flee from God’s call on his life. He can’t escape from God. God catches Jonah literally in the water by preparing a ginormous fish to swallow him. Jonah spends three days in the belly of the fish before finally repenting of his sin. The fish vomited him out (yuck!) onto dry land, and God calls him once again to go to Nineveh and preach His message. Jonah preaches, and the people of Nineveh are saved.

But what happened after the fact is what I am drawn to today.

Jonah becomes angry with God for saving the people of Nineveh! He honestly could not believe that God would actually forgive the Assyrian people, a people whom Jonah and many others despised. Jonah felt about them like myself and many others (maybe even yourself!) did about last week’s sentencing. The people weren’t deserving of such grace, mercy, and love from God. They were sinful! They were beyond saving!

That’s where Jonah was wrong, and honestly, that’s where I was wrong. The beautiful and awesome reality of the Gospel is that God came to save sinful, wretched, and undeserving people. He came to save the worst of people. My death warrant had also been presented because of my sin. God’s Word reveals to me that I am a sinner (Romans 6:23). But God’s Word reveals to me that Christ came to forgive and save ALL sinners (Luke 5:32; John 3:16).

God’s Word reveals to me that I should have a heart like His, and that I should make my life about seeing that others hear and have an opportunity to receive God’s precious gift of eternal life (Matthew 28:19-20).

God came to forgive and save Larry Nassar, the ladies he abused, the judge that sentenced him, and the world that hates him. God came to save me, too, and because I have been rescued and redeemed by such a merciful Savior, I must daily be reminded that I was lost, imprisoned, and condemned because of my sin, yet Christ set me free, forgave me, and gave me eternal life.

I humbly asked God to forgive me, and to never let me forget where He brought me from and what He has called me to.

Nineveh is closer than you think. God is calling you to be a part of His rescue mission. Will you share with those who are in need of Him?

Rev. Peter McDonald, Midway Baptist Church