God and the Bad Guys
I’m continually shocked by how God reaches out to bad guys. This occurred to me as I was reading about all the wayward kings of Israel. I didn’t realize God spent so much time working with bad guys. I tend to cross them off. I have to work to be kind and friendly to a crabby neighbor, reach out to someone whose attitudes resemble a KKK member, or be generous and open to the Christian celebrity who lives an opulent life and wants me to write his books for him.
But look at how merciful God is to Bad Guys:
Bad Guy 1, Jeroboam: God (through the prophet Ahijah) invited him to rebel against King Solomon (a good guy mostly) and take the ten northern tribes. Then God made Jeroboam an offer much like the one made to Solomon: if he would keep the commandments as David did, God would build him an enduring house (1 Kings 11:31, 37; see also 3:14; 6:12; 9:4). Later God sent a “man of God” to warn Jeroboam about worshipping idols and got his attention by withering his hand (12:28). Jeroboam repented and his hand was restored. (13:1-10), but later went back to his old ways.
Bad Guy 2, Ahab (Mr. Jezebel): God helped him through Elijah who urged Ahab to eat and drink (because he apparently had not eaten all day) after the contest on Mt. Carmel. Elijah advised him to get himself and his chariot through the dusty plain of Jezreel before it became mud from the rain that was coming to break the drought. Elijah ran ahead of Ahab as an obedient outrunner did for a king to ensure safety (1 Kings 18:41-46). God continued to reach out to Ahab and help him to “know that I am the Lord” (20:13, 22, 28)
Bad Guys Galore: God kept trying to guide Jehu and Joash until they proved they rejected God. God even answered the prayer of Jehoahaz who “did evil in his sight” (2 Kings 13:4-5).
I confess I’m more like Jonah: I don’t want to talk to barbaric Ninevites (think, Al Qaeda). Even after Jonah preached to them, he was mad about it. At the end of that story, Jonah’s formation is still in question: Will he ever get a compassionate, wise heart? Will I?
On the other hand, I want to be available to God to do outrageous things like all those prophets, especially Elijah. I admire how Jesus could eat dinner at the Pharisees’ homes and while dying on the cross forgive people who put him there. Continually, I see Jesus holding out his hand to me and inviting me, Can you get your heart right enough to follow me, even to love this challenging person (whom I see as a Bad Guy)?
So my next step is to do the second part of Matthew 5:44: pray for my enemies (enemy=anybody I find difficult today). As I do that, God surprises me and lets me do the first part, bless a difficult person—usually before I realized I was doing it. When that happens, it’s so strange that I try not to think about it. It’s better to let the grace of God surprise us as we do shocking things.
Grace and peace,
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