But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There's a scene in Les Miserables that always gets me. Jean Valjean has just been released from prison. His exhilaration of being set free is quickly squelched as the cold reality sets in of how hard it will be for him to find work or food as an ex-con. When a bishop takes him into his home for the night, Valjean's utter desperation leads him to give in to temptation. He steals some silver from the bishop during the night. Having been caught by police, Valjean says that the bishop gave him the silver. When the police bring him back to the bishop's home to return the stolen goods, the bishop realizes that Valjean's fate is in his hands. In an amazing display of grace, the bishop confirms Valjean's story that he gave him the silver and even chides Valjean for leaving so quickly that he forgot to take the candlesticks. He stuffs these into his bag as well and send him on his way. Now not only free, but with enough money and renewed hope in humanity to have a real chance in the world.
Romans 5:8 unveils the incredible truth that God loved you when you were still a sinner. Even while you were rebelling against Him in sin, when you were still His enemy, He loved you. He sent His Son to take on flesh and die in the your place. "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die" (Romans 5:7). But God died for you when you were His enemy!
God loved us and showered grace on us when we were not worthy of it. Even now, who among us would consider themselves worthy of God's blessings? No one. So the Christian life ought to be marked by reconciliation, by grace, by not just second chances but by seventy-seventh chances (see Matthew 18:21-22).
Do you show love to those whom you think don't deserve it? Do you pour out gifts on people you think may not even appreciate it? If you are a believer, you ought to. Your love, your surprising grace, just may be the tool God uses to help lift someone out of their present condition. So go in the peace that God has given us. Take hope, grace and forgiveness with you and introduce them into the lives of those who need them the most. Make sacrifices to love unworthy people in costly ways, because this is how God has loved you in Jesus. Be changed by that love and live it out.
For further reading...
- Matthew 18:21-35- If you are thinking about holding back forgiveness from someone, you really ought to read this passage first.