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The kindness of God

March 27, 2012 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4)

This past Sunday, I shared a recent news story I had read about an atheist in Texas who had been deeply moved by the compassion shown by Christians in his community towards his family as he dealt with a detached retina that had caused him to lose his job and experience financial hardship. By the end of the story, this man, who had threatened to sue the town over the manger scene set up at the courthouse, was promising to buy the Christians a star with which to decorate that same scene.

As I reflected on that story, I was reminded of one of my favorite and one of the most unexpected passages of the Bible, Romans 2:4, where Paul writes that “God’s kindness leads you towards repentance.” I say “unexpected” because the words repentance is so often associated with the threat of judgment, punishment, or Hell. The word repent conjures up images of fire and brimstone preachers warning people of the coming judgment and admonishing them to turn from their sinful lifestyles, lest they experience the wrath of God. But in Romans 2:4, Paul reminds his readers that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance, his kindness that causes us to turn from our self-centered way of life to a life of fellowship with God.

At the end of the news story about the atheist in Texas, the man is quoted as saying, “These people are acting like what the Bible says a Christian does.” Beautiful, isn’t it? But notice what brought about his repentance – not a church trying to convert him by warning him of the impending judgment or condemning him for his sin, but rather the kindness of God’s people, caring for him in his time of need and buying his family groceries.

In the same way, threats of judgment and warnings of Hell may at times scare you into getting your life together, but ultimately it is the kindness, the love, and the grace of God that leads us to genuinely lay down the things of this world and trust in the goodness of God. It is seeing God’s love for us, displayed through the death of His Son Jesus for us, or through the tenderness of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, or the humility of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, that convinces our heart that God is good, that He loves us, and that following Him is so much more fulfilling than living for ourselves and the things this world has to offer. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance.

May the kindness of God towards you overwhelm your heart and convince you to turn from the things which occupy your heart and your time so that you might live for Him and accept His love for you. And may you in turn show unexpected kindness towards the people in your life, that they might turn from their sin and their stubbornness to receive love and grace.

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