The Theologian Speaks: Article 5 of IVN’s Exclusive 6 Week Series
Whenever Jesus wanted to make a point, he often spoke in parables, fictitious scenarios depicting life situations familiar to the average person. I’ve borrowed the parable idea here for the same purpose, to make a point. What follows is not a parable in the strictest sense because, unlike Jesus’ parables, I’ve chosen to give the main character a name. Meet Stanley, an outstanding student-athlete, voted “most likely to succeed”, and an all-around super guy.
But, somewhere along the line Stanley lost his mind! He came from good stock, Christian people, and as a teen he attended church regularly. Stanley wasn’t a kid who could be described as “religious” but he was a “good” kid. He didn’t give his folks one second of trouble. These same behavior patterns carried over into his later teen years and into his stint in the military. However, before his tour ended, as I said, he lost his mind! Stanley became a modern day Prodigal Son. He left the security of the nest and ventured out alone. (Luke 15: 11-32). Here’s his story.
Before the military, Stanley had not seen much of the “world.” He was reared in a small country town where the most “worldly” thing that happened was the annual church lemon social. The military changed all that. Uncle Sam took him to exotic places he never knew existed. He saw and did things he had never seen or done before. It didn’t take long for Stanley to become overwhelmed in the things of the world. His early church training soon flew the coup, and he fell into the desires of the flesh. There’s an old song that says “give me wine, women and song! Let me dance the night away!” That was Stanley’s thing. He adopted it as a lifestyle and was having the time of his life! Deep down, he knew he was doing wrong, but the more he did it, the easier it was to do. Unknown to him, the gap between him and God became wider and wider. That’s the way of sin. Its effects on the human mind are deceptive and cumulative. Stanley didn’t realize that God was stationary, and that it was he who was widening the gap and not God. His military obligation eventually came to an end, but his new found lifestyle did not. He carried it all the way back home with him after he was discharged.
Stanley experienced culture shock as a returning veteran. The culture at home didn’t match what he had become used to for the past four years. He tried to re-adapt to the small town culture he once enjoyed, but the effects of sin had taken its toll. His guilt would not allow him to try the church scene. The enemy had convinced him that God had written him off and that he was no longer worthy to be in his presence or in his house. So Stanley resumed his lifestyle of “wine, women and song” in a neighboring community where he was not known. Now, here’s the point of the scenario: continuous sin over time deceives one into believing that God’s love is not available to him and that God has banished him from his family forever.
Even though Stanley and his escapades are fiction, his situation is not. There are literally thousands, if not millions, living under the same deception. None are innately bad people; but, they seem to have either forgotten what they were taught about the nature of God, or they never learned it in the first place. Space will not allow an exhaustive examination of God’s nature, so we will allude only to a few aspects of his nature which speak directly to the point of the scenario.
The love of God is not reserved for a select few. It is available to all people, believers and unbelievers, saints and sinners, atheists, agnostics, terrorists, liars, thieves, and all those who consistently live the wine, women and song lifestyle. This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said that “God so loved the world” in John 3: 16. The word “world” is a translation from the Greek word “kosmos” which literally means world, including its inhabitants. No one is excluded. We find supporting evidence in 1John 4: 8, 16, where John wrote that “God is love”, meaning it is his nature to love, and to love consistently. There is never a time when God does not love mankind.
We also find scriptural evidence that it is God’s nature to be merciful (Psalm 103:8, and Psalm 116:5), and that his mercy is everlasting (Psalm 118:1-4). Consequently, it is God’s nature to withhold any punishment man deserves because of sin. This does not give us license to believe we can sin with impunity without suffering the consequences. Consider the following paragraph.
Scripture tells us that it is God’s nature to be faithful and just in his reaction to our confessed sin. It is his nature to forgive and to cleanse all, no exclusions, who make confessions (1John 1:9). When we revisit these last few paragraphs, a few things become clear. It is the confession of sin that activates God’s faithfulness and his mercy regarding sin. Love, on the other hand, is independent of confession. God loves all people with or without confession. He will allow us to continue in our sin, if we so choose, loving us through it all. But, he prefers our confession. He does not want any of us to experience destruction (John 3:16).
I pray that Stanley, wherever he is, comes to his senses before it’s too late. If you know any Stanley-types, share the love, the mercy, and the faithfulness of God with them before it’s too late for them.
Love, Peace and Blessings, until we talk again.