When I was a high school kid growing up in an evangelical church with a large youth group, there was a guy who often attended named Mort. To put it kindly and simply, Mort was rather “unusual.” To put it not so kindly, he was totally goofy, socially inappropriate, and entirely annoying to have around. At a minimum, he was ADHD – before that was known as a malady and learning challenge. Every time you turned around, there he was – right up in your face with some ridiculously goofy idea about what we should be doing. He was a sort of human Marmaduke – the Great Dane of comic strip fame. (The Wikipedia description of the mom in house is “Dottie – the housewife of the family whose daily life would probably be a lot less of a hassle if she didn’t have Marmaduke around.” )
Our youth group tolerated Mort, not because he deserved it, but because most of us truly were pretty good Christian kids trying to figure out how to live life for God. We loved him “in the Lord,” because that was the only way it would work. But Mort made our sanctification a difficult process. And of course, over time, we all graduated and went in varied directions, though we’d gather occasionally again at church as college/young adults. Mort sort of disappeared, as he was not actually from a church family. After a few years, he showed up again, and he was entirely changed. His old self had been mortified (bad pun, I know); he was a changed person. I believe he went into the military, where they probably beat the goofiness out of him! But in any event, he was now socially appropriate and even fun to have around.
In our sinful condition, to God we are human Marmadukes – though completely without any cuteness factor. We are Morts – totally self-absorbed and frankly intolerable in our sinful state. But God didn’t leave to us to figure it out; he didn’t hope we’d connect to some organization that would beat the sin out of us; he didn’t even give us a multi-step program to fix ourselves. No, God gave us his most precious Son to pay the price of our sins and bring us reconciliation.
As was noted in the sermon yesterday, the word to think of with reconciliation is “change.” God has not been changed, but we have. We are no longer enemies; we are at peace with God. And all of this is because God chose to love us at our worst – while we were yet sinners.
This understanding does away with any notion that mankind was a breed of cute little sinners – a boys will be boys sort of thing … along with any notion that God is a type of soft-hearted elderly grandfather figure who simply can’t stop himself from doting upon his cute little creatures. Nope! We were rebels who were in outright defiance against God … but in that condition, God chose to love us and name us in Christ as our debt was paid upon that Roman cross.
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.