Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
At what point is a person past all hope of redemption?
That question has been the center of a controversy I’ve been observing within my fiction-writing community these past few weeks. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that those with a Christian world view have far different responses than those with secular world views. Not that Christians are above judging others. All of us have a tendency to rate various sins on a scale of 1 to 10.
For example, can we forgive a liar? Most among us would. An adulterer? That’s a little harder. A sexual abuser using his power and authority to take what he wants when he wants it? Harder still. How about a murderer?
I think you get my point. What if I told you the man who penned the words of Psalm 51 was guilty of all of those things and more? Does he deserve to have his prayer for forgiveness answered? Do any of us?
We are quick to cry outrage and call for judgment when the sinner is the other person. King David himself, when confronted with his sin in the form of a parable, called for death for the one who perpetrated such a crime. Imagine his surprise when the prophet turned to him and said, “You are that man!”
We are all that man. We are all deserving of judgment. “I’m not a murderer,” you say? No? Consider this statement by Jesus who is the only true judge of sin. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” [Matthew 5:21-22a] The apostle John who learned at the feet of Jesus puts it more bluntly, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer.” [1 John 3:15]
We are all that man.
In Psalm 32 we see God’s answer to David’s prayer for renewal:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5
Forgiveness. Renewal. Are there any words sweeter to the sinner? Don’t get me wrong. There were consequences to David’s sin. There are consequences to ours. In David’s case, he escaped death, but his child did not. The innocent paid the price for the guilty. Was it foreshadowing of what God, through Jesus, would do for us? Perhaps. Whatever the case, the cost of our sin is great and should never be taken lightly.
So, to return to the question that started this blog, at what point is a person beyond the hope of redemption? Never in this lifetime if he/she calls upon the mercy of our Savior.
Outrageous? No doubt.
Maybe that’s why we call it AMAZING grace.