(Part One of the Series)
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13: 36-43; ESV
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7: 18-19; ESV
I have stated this before in past sermons and articles; I am drawn to the last, the least, and the lost. I am passionate to reach out to those whom society has casted away and refuse to give any sort of chance to be restored. I enjoy going into places where some would fear to tread. It is not because I view myself as anyone special or, on the other hand, have a secret death wish. It is because I once lived in those places. I know the people because I was once one of the people. And because someone came along by my side when I needed it most and when I could have easily gone down a different path, I am who I am today.
It was recently stated to me by a close friend as we were discussing my involvement in the local Jail Ministry; he stated, “I don’t know how you do it; having compassion and talking with those in jail or former inmates. I have a really hard time finding forgiveness for those people because I have been their victim on several occasions. Just recently, I was at a hearing for an incident where I was victimized and thought that their sentence isn’t harsh enough. Is that wrong of me?” This brings up a great question: Does compassion and/or forgiveness mean that we condone the actions of the perpetration? Does forgiveness mean that the offender gets out of jail free? Let’s explore this…
Looking at both Scriptures provided, we get two different aspects of God: on one hand He is a God of great mercy and compassion (Micah passage) and He forgives the sins of the people. On the other hand, it shares that He (Jesus) will sift the good seeds from the weeds and cast those into the fire. What is the key difference in both Scriptures? One text shares a people who turn away from their actions while the other people strive towards deepening their sinful natures.
If I may be transparent for a moment: There are those whose sins and actions I find DEEPLY appalling and which would bring out the worst in me. These are the people that my HUMAN NATURE would leave them suffer the deepest punishment and, in fact, would love to see sifted and thrown into the fire. HOWEVER, my SPIRITUAL NATURE inspires and moves me to towards compassion which Jesus Christ gives me on a daily basis. I will not mention which actions these are, but I will share these are the areas in which I constantly ask God to change my human eyesight into spiritual eyesight and to see the possibilities EVERYONE has in the hands of God. And if there is someone that I struggle in ministering to because I have issues with them, I pass them on to someone who can minister to their needs. That is an issue I personally have to deal with; not the inmate.
Regardless of how I feel, there is still an earthly accountability for the actions they have to face. We ourselves have earthly consequences for actions: if we speed and get pulled over, a consequence could be getting a ticket or having to take defensive driving classes. The police officer could forgive us, but the fact remains we would still have to pay the ticket or attend the classes.
The answering of the question that my friend raised is hard to answer in a single limited-word article. There is a great deal of ground work which needs to be laid before giving a clear answer. I hopefully began laying this in this article. The Scripture provided is to show that as God gives compassion, there is also judgment that awaits for those who choose to continue in their sins and behaviors. In my next article, I will discuss my response to my friend’s question and response to his circumstance.
Please help us to have compassion. Allow us to understand the potential each person has to turn from their sinful actions and to be restored into relationship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.