Amazing grace: Let it save some more wretches
Published 7:23 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016
With a pressure cooker bomb detonating in New York and a mall stabbing in Minnesota, we once more come face-to-face with the real threat of terrorism as American citizens. It’s not that war out there. It’s here. It’s everywhere.
The majority of Christian ethicists in history have not landed as pacifists, but rather as proponents of just war theory: A government has the right to participate in war, including the killing of enemy combatants, so long as the cause is just. Now what determines a just cause is a much longer conversation for another article.
But how does the just cause of combating ISIS fall in line with the words of Jesus, “Love your enemies”?
In the book of Jonah, the meanest nation on the block was Assyria, its capital being Nineveh. They were brutal to the people they conquered, including the Israelites. No joke. Read this ancient account from a leader of Assyria:
“I captured many troops alive: I cut off of some their arms and hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears and extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living and one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city.”
And yet God called his prophet Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh! Many of you know the story.
He ran, but a storm and a great fish got him begrudgingly rebounded towards Nineveh. After he preached and the wicked city repented and God relented of punishing Nineveh, Jonah gets upset with God. He would make a terrible evangelist today.
Jonah preached repentance, but secretly he wanted to sit on the edge of the city, grab a bag of popcorn and watch the city go up in flames. But in Jonah 4:11 God chides, “And should not I pity Nineveh?” In other words, God is slow to anger and full of compassion. He takes no delight in the death of the wicked. He might have to display his just wrath, but he would rather the people turn to his grace.
God wants us to hold this tension. Justice must be served, yet we wish for grace and peace for all people created in the image of God. Yes, we should engage in pursuing ISIS, but the Christian doesn’t grab the popcorn; he heralds the Gospel.
The Christian prays that before that bomb takes that terrorist out, he turns from his wicked ways and follows Jesus. You don’t believe that Jesus would welcome an ISIS member with grace and forgiveness after he repents? Then check out Nineveh. Or better yet, check out a terrorist named Saul who became the Apostle Paul.
Grace is scandalous to the self-righteous. Remember, Jesus turns to the repentant thief on the cross and promised, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Our government has to do its job. But don’t sell the Gospel short of doing its job too. It’s amazing grace. Let it save some more wretches.
Matthew Homan is the pastor of Eureka Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.