One of the most frustrating things I deal with when talking with people about Jesus is that they try to tell me that they’re “not good enough” to follow Jesus. There are things in their lives that are so bad that God wouldn’t want to forgive them. Those deep, dark secrets in their lives drag them down and keep them from believing that God could love them. They hear the words that God will forgive them and develop a relationship with them, but they won’t believe it for themselves. It may work for others, but not for them. And so, they smile and nod, tell you that they’ll consider the good news of Jesus Christ, but walk away believing that there’s no way that God could love them.
How bad do you have to be for you to be outside of the mercy and grace of God? I don’t know. All I can say is that I have never met, nor heard of, anyone in that situation. “But what about <insert name of horrible, awful person here>? Could God forgive them?” Yes. If they truly repented of their sins and turned to God through Jesus Christ, He would forgive them. If you want an example of someone who was bad and evil who was forgiven, look no farther than Paul. “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” (Acts 26:9-10)
How bad was Saul? He held the robes when Stephen was stoned. He voted to put some Christians to death, even though Rome did not allow the Jews to put anyone to death. He attacked and arrested followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and worked to track down Christians in foreign countries. Saul was a scourge to Christians. He was public enemy number one in the Christian world. Ananias was afraid to visit him, until God assured him it was ok. The church in Damascus thought his conversion was a ruse at first and they didn’t want Saul around. The church in Jerusalem wouldn’t have anything to do with Saul at first…what better way to gain information about who the Christians were and where they met than to pretend to be one of them. Saul was so bad, that in the eyes of most, it was impossible for him to become a follower of Christ. Yet, we remember him as Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles and the author of many letters in the New Testament.
So how are you? Are you really so bad that God can’t forgive you? “Yes, I am.” Who have you killed? Who have you treated cruelly as you put them in prison? What could you do worse than that? If God’s mercy and grace can forgive Saul, later Paul, then I can’t imagine a sin that you might have committed that is so great that He can’t forgive you. No matter who you are; no matter what you have done; when you recognize your sin, and turn to God in true repentance and ask for forgiveness, He will give it to you. The mercy and grace of God is amazing and extends far beyond you or I could imagine. Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him while He was on the cross. Is your sin worse than the category of “crucifying the Savior of the world?” I doubt it. God loves you. He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for you. All He wants is for you to turn to Him in repentance and receive His forgiveness.
Oh Lord, my heart goes out to every person today who thinks that they have committed sins so terrible that You can’t forgive them. Speak to them. Show them how much You love them. Let them experience Your mercy and grace. May they turn to You in repentance and become one of Your children.