The word “retribution”, which I will be using a lot in this post, means “delivering or granting justice”, much like an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or a life for a life, etc.
But I will begin way off somewhere else.
The Apostle Paul told Titus about the Cretians, in Titus 1:12-13: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”
Paul was talking about a hereditary trait that these Cretians had.
I understand that in every society or culture, people have certain traits which they inherited from their forefathers, and which they can do nothing about, save by an intervention through the washing of their sins by faith in Jesus Christ.
Recently, someone told me about a certain people, “Once those guys put a black mark on you, they never let it go!”
I thought, How sad! How so very sad! How sad for people who cannot let go.
This was particularly poignant to me because of late the Lord has been teaching me what a merciful God He is. He has been showing me that His grace and mercy are extremely abundant; indeed, incomprehensibly so. The Lord has been reminding me of some things, and revealing new things to me. The following is the account of how the Lord has been going about with this lesson in my heart.
(And let me affirm here that I am not writing stories. I am writing something real and aunthentic that has occurred in my life).
The Lord has been reminding me of my past. He had been reminding me of how He saved me.
During the years before I got saved I did some really bad things which even today I believe I should have been punished for. With all my heart I feel I ought to have been punished for those things. I cannot for the life of me comprehend how I could have got away with some of the things I did; and that here I am, 25 years later, moving on with my salvation as if nothing happened.
In the course of my un-Godly lifestyle during those years, there was even a time when I had to run away from home for a time because of some things I had done and there were people who were coming after me. Had those people got me, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this blog. The world cannot stand any injustice done to it. It is unforgiving, much like those people my brother told me about.
At the height of all this un-Godly lifestyle, out of the blue the Lord saved me. And this is the part I keep wondering about: that immediately afterwards, there was absolutely no retribution, neither from anybody, nor from God Himself. It was like God put a protective arm around me and said, “No one touches you.” Right there in my hometown, I began living a completely new life. No one ever came after me, even though I had done things that deserved retribution of the highest sort.
Moreover, the word “retribution” never surfaced even in my thoughts. The sense of punishment vanished from my life. God had wiped all my sins away!
It is now 25 years since I got saved, and I am still amazed that I can walk about a free man, not just physically, but more importantly, in my spirit. There is not a whiff of condemnation or that word, which awes me so much, “retribution”.
Were you to bring up all the bad things that I did and bring them right to my face and tell me, “Here is what you did!” I wouldn’t understand a word of what you were saying. On the day the Lord saved me, He paid for all my sins more perfectly than if I had given my life to pay for them. I have absolutely no sense of guilt over those things.
Now comes the even more interesting – and exciting – part. Many years after my salvation, I find I am still doing some of the things that I was doing before I got saved. (I know this sounds bad on a Christian blog, but I just have to say it.) For me, this is worse than living the sinful lifestyle that I lived before I got saved. It hurts me so much to find that I can still do these things.
In Hebrews 5:12-13, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Hebrews for being forever babes in the Spirit. “Much time has gone by”, he says. “You should be mature by now, and you should not be doing the things you are doing!”
We like to believe that we have grown with the passing of time; but much of the time, to our shame, we are much like these Hebrews.
And here is where the climax of the matter occurs. Remember we are talking about retribution, the remembrance of sins and the punishment due. But in the Book of Hebrews, it is evident that even though Paul scolds the Hebrews, yet was there not mercy with God, he would not bother writing them anything else. He would say, “God is so tired of you!” and there end the matter.
But the Apostle Paul writes 13 full chapters to the Hebrews because even after failing to achieve God’s best for themselves, God still has hope for them.
God was reminding me that even though He expects us to grow, yet there is so much grace with Him.
Now, I know people take opportunity with God because they have a skewed understanding of God’s grace. They go and do obvious and acts of sin and expect God to forgive and forget. Of course, God forgives and forgets once we repent. But God also looks upon the heart. You cannot deceive God. He knows those who are sincere, and those who are playing games with Him.
The best part, though, is that, even if you are the playboy type, the minute you decide to get serious with God, the very next second God forgets all those things you have doing trying His patience. He forgives you completely and sets you on a course towards spiritual growth and maturity.
And for those brethren whom my brother told me cannot forgive… Many preachers teach on forgiveness. But it is impossible for a believer to walk in forgiveness if they are not aware of how much God has forgiven them, or how much ready and willing He is to forgive them the minute they turn to Him in true repentance.
That is why today, more than ever, the church needs to hear the message of the cross, and not another.
[Below: A ripe pawpaw]