Let your heart be ready the day God forgives your enemies. At the heart of the Gospel is a plea for us not to allow the grace and mercy of God to be an offence to your sensibilities.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the elder brother was offended by the Father’s restoration of the younger sinful brother. The elder brother responds to his forgiving father this way.
Luke 15:29-30 …All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ (NLT).
Tim Keller calls the self-righteousness of the Pharisees who are angry at Jesus forgiving the sins of the prodigal sons (tax collectors and prostitutes) elder-brotherliness. Elder-brotherliness is being more concerned about the loss of the property and your offended pride than the repentant soul of your brother saved from the fires of hell. Elder brothers often feel God owes them a better life than ‘sinners’ because they were good. God owes them for not being rebellious. God owes them for waiting for sex until marriage. God owes them for always being the good one. Elder brothers do this because they lose sight of their own sin- they undermine God’s value of people, they disbelief and deny God’s power to restore and they are blind to God’s care and concern over their hurt.
In the book of Jonah, the emotional prophet was offended by God’s rescinding of judgement towards Nineveh. The prophet said this.
Jonah 4:2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” (NLT).
God then gives Jonah shade from the heat by raising a plant. The plant is then killed by a worm and it dies. Jonah is angry that the plant died. God responds.
Jonah 4:9-11 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (NLT).
Some people would rather have people burn and their arguments won. Some people are more interested in pointing out who the arsonist was intead of truly reconciling. God calls for the love of restored people more than the personal satisfaction of our flesh.
In the parable of the labourers, the morning workers were offended by the farm owner’s equal compensation to the afternoon workers.
Matthew 20:10-16 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’ “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (NLT).
When we as believers are offended by God’s forgiveness to those who have hurt us, we are blind to our own ugly pride. We quickly assume that since our sins are less consequential, that we are more righteous than our enemies. Our enemies in turn are deemed inferior to us, undeserving of good from us and even disgusting to us, in light of our own ‘goodness’.
It’s possible that some believers were offended at Paul the Apostle’s conversion and ministry. When Paul is reconciling the fighting Corinthians, his counsel to the offended Christians is not inspiring.
1 Corinthians 6:7 “Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?” (NLT).
The danger of blasphemy is often knocking at our door when we are offended by God’s mercy and grace to others. We implicitly believe we can do a better job at justice than God. We even often explicitly say that God has been unfair and that He is not good. Yet God never lets evil go unpunished. But we often stand in the way of God’s wheels of justice and insist to punish those who we deem unworthy of redemption. See God’s instructions.
Romans 12:19-21 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (NLT).
God has ensured that the punishment of your worst enemies is being executed well. He has had your enemy whipped thirty-nine lashes of leather and metal bits. He has had your enemy publicly embarrased. He has had them arrested and thrown in a roman dungeon. He has had people spit in their face, punch them in their face, insult them, mock them and treated like a pathetic criminal. God then has a crown of dry thorns twisted in the head of your enemy and has had them mocked that they were royalty. He has then made them carry a 75 kg cross up a hill where they would be executed. God then ensured that your worst enemy was stripped naked and punctured in his feet with large iron nails on that wooden cross. Your worst enemy bled as he hang on the cross as he died a slow painful death of asphyxiation. As your worst enemy hang on that cross, he was mocked a final time by you and reminded of their worst sins. God asks you today, “Is the punishment sufficient?” Let your heart be ready-Gospel ready- the day God forgives your worst enemy.
Psalm 130:3-4 “If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.” (MSG)