I was watching a movie some years ago and it had a quote that I’ve never been able to shake. Richard Gere played Martin Vale, in the movie “Primal Fear.” He was a hotshot defense attorney that seemed to be bent on making a name for himself and getting rich. At one point, he was talking to a reporter and he said that the reason he did what he did had nothing to do with money or fame. He said that he did it because he believed in the basic goodness of mankind and that there are some very good people who do some very bad things. I’ve thought about that over and over. Many people believe that. Many believe that people are good and do bad things sometimes…but it seems like when we do bad things, it’s because our guard is down…or the filter is off…or something of the sort…
Essentially, people are bad…or we might say…sinful. I’ve never had a hard time convincing someone of sin…in the context of defining sin as doing something intentionally wrong. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to…when being truly honest…would all agree that they had done things in their lives out of malice, selfishness, pettiness, etc. All of us can relate to this and it seems to back up something Jesus said regarding the heart of man…that nothing goes into us that makes us evil…but that which comes out of us proves that our hearts are, in fact, furiously evil (Mark 7). This doesn’t mean that we are all intent on harming someone or something else. It simply means that what goes on behind the looking glass of our eyes is something…often sinister…our thoughts…our attitudes…our very hearts. We would all…everyone of us…be mortified if our thoughts were to be made public for the whole world to see…because they are far from innocent…at least that’s me. Maybe you can relate and maybe not…but in my own mind dwells much….MUCH evil. No, I don’t act on the majority of it…thankfully…but the presence of those seeds in my mind and heart indicates that I’m very much full of malice. I guess I would say that Mr. Vale had it reversed…that there are some very bad people that do some very good things…but that the default position of the human heart is one of broken corruption.
Now…I read a passage in the Bible that has rocked my world for days on end now…a passage that we often simply gloss over. Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)” This tells us that God doesn’t love us because we are good…but in spite of our evil nature. He chose to love us when we did not even want Him to love us. Moreover, He chose to love us when we could not and would not reciprocate.
So I began to ask myself a question…and it is definitely a human question…limited by my own depravity and experience. What does God stand to gain from all of this? Why did/does He do it? What motivated or motivates Him to love in this way?
I know some people that are absolutely unlovable. I mean that their attitude is so bad and the way they act towards others is so atrocious that even their families cannot love them truly. They are committed to them and would do anything in the world to help them…but they don’t love them relationally because the individuals have pushed everyone away in anger and malice. In truth, they don’t want to be loved. They want to be served and they want to be left alone. My reaction to this kind of individual is to want to walk away from them, wash my hands and say, “I tried but now I’m giving them what they want.” But that’s not what God did…
That passage doesn’t speak of a group of people…but of ALL people. From Cain,who committed the first murder, to King David the adulterer/murderer, to Jezebel the wicked queen, to Daniel the prophet, to Hitler, to Mother Teresa, to Charles Manson, to Billy Graham…to me. The score is the same for all of humanity. We all, in the rawness of our core being…are unlovable. We destroy, we hate, we kill, we plunder, we do unspeakable things. We are capable of the most horrific things imaginable, and then…just when we think nothing can surprise us any longer…we are shocked by one of our own that has done yet another malicious deed.
God is complete, perfect, infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient…according to Scripture…and I believe that. So once again…I renew the question…what is this about? Why redeem us? Why love us?
I don’t understand His love. It baffles me…but it also captures me. He has loved me with an everlasting love and in turn given me the ability to love Him back. I balk at the idea that the only reason He does this is His own glory. Yes, He is glorified in all of it. But He has also done it for us…because He loves us…of His own choice…so we can relax…and stop trying to earn His love. It cannot be earned…but received…because it is given to us freely…yet it cost Him everything.
I don’t get it…but what’s more…I am so thankful that I do…in fact…get it.
*Image taken from http://onshouldersofgiants.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/5-ways-the-bible-speaks-of-gods-love/