Case 1: The Fleeing Felon
A man observes a supervisor physically abusing a worker. Incensed, he lies in wait for the supervisor assaults him, kills him and buries his body. The next day an unforeseen complication develops when the man learns there was a witness to the murder. Upon hearing this, the man flees in an effort to avoid capture.
Case 2: Lust, Lies and Murder
One day a successful man decides to take a spring vacation; work has been a grueling. While out for a stroll he sees a beautiful woman in an adjacent building. He makes contact with the woman, who is married, and an affair ensues. The woman’s husband is a soldier and is away at war. When the woman becomes pregnant it is clear the husband could not have fathered the child. The successful man then concocts a scheme to have the solider killed thereby enabling him to marry the woman.
Case 3: The Outraged Activist
An activist believes members of newly-formed community are causing confusion and dissention. He had a simple plan to deal with the troublemakers: round them up, have then beaten, and if that fails to work – have them killed.
Back to the question: Is it possible the God of Israel is also the God of scoundrels? Presumably the answer is yes. Moses is the man referenced in the first case. While Moses murdered an Egyptian, he was also God’s chose tool to bring Israel out of bondage. David is the subject of the second case. He committed adultery, attempted to deceive the husband, and when his efforts failed he had him killed. The Apostle Paul is the activist in the third case. Paul was present and held the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen to death; he also signed letters authorizing the death sentence for other Christians. These facts notwithstanding, God used Paul to spread the Gospel throughout the known world bringing both Jews and Gentiles to faith in Christ.
By human standards none of these men was fit for leadership, but God judges by a higher standard – one we cannot understand. Given our personal faults and failings shouldn’t we also show mercy to those who society has branded as undesirables and scoundrels? If we are not willing to share and shine the love of Christ in a world steeped in darkness and despair, who will? The Great Commission is clear: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”* We do not have the luxury of deciding who receives salvation and who does not. Our mission is clear: make disciples!
As the church, we have a God-given responsibility to share the good news with anyone and everyone; yes, even scoundrels. Can we truly expect people to respond differently and live differently if they don’t know there is another way? As Disciples, we are to point others to the way the leads to life eternal. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”** Perhaps we need to focus less on having people come to the church building and focus more on being the church sent into the world. Our disciple-making mission does not stop and the church door, it may begin there, but it ends in eternity.
Amen and amen.
- Matthew 28: 19 – New International Version
- Romans 10: 14 – New International Version