I surely can’t be the only one who skips over some Scriptures a hundred times, a thousand times, maybe, and then suddenly one day, as I’m asking the Lord to open the Scriptures to me, He opens some obscure little phrase in a way I never expected.
(That’s what makes reading the Bible exciting.)
So here I am in II Corinthians. Paul says, in chapter 4 verse 1, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;” For some reason the Lord directed me to hone in on that “mercy,” or compassion.
The concordance took me to I Timothy 1:16, where Paul candidly tells the reason he had received that compassion. “This is why I obtained mercy: so that in me first Jesus Christ might display all longsuffering, for a pattern to them that will afterwards believe on him to everlasting life.”
Did you get that? Paul says he was shown mercy very early on in the history of the New Covenant because Jesus Christ wanted someone to display His compassion.
“Look at me. I was as bad as it gets. So bad that as I presented myself as the pinnacle of Godliness, I was destroying the lambs who were trusting in the true God.” If the Lord saved someone as deeply hypocritical as Paul—not just saying one thing and doing another, but actively preaching and promoting one thing and actively, vigorously doing exactly the opposite-–if He saved someone like that, yes, the new Christians would marvel, yes, He can save anyone.
It’s never simply a coincidence that the Lord opens Scriptures to me that directly relate to what’s going on in my life. I’ve been learning about men (women too, but this particular field of hypocrisy seems to be dominated by men) who stand in the role of shepherds of the people of God, men who actively preach their own version of Christlikeness (read: “try harder”) while at the same time actively protecting the wolves in their flocks who attack the lambs. How appalling is this hypocrisy? Do you stand appalled?
And yet . . . God can save them. God has chosen Paul as the example, and we still marvel at the salvation of Paul, as if it were as fresh as yesterday. And we look for the day, maybe tomorrow, when one or more of these men will stand before the people of God and say, “In thinking I was protecting the church of God, I actually worked to destroy the church of God. I was a fool. I was deceived. I was a hypocritical sinner. But God has delivered me. And now I proclaim the true mercy of God, who can rescue even a sinner like me.”
We’ll embrace them. We’ll love them, we’ll welcome them. We’ll forgive them. We’ll weep and weep and groan and marvel over the compassion of Christ.
O God, speed the day.