Parenting small children is not for the faint-hearted. As Dr. Kevin Leman is fond of saying, “We have seen the enemy, and they are small.” There’s just so much of life – both good and bad – that they simply do not understand. It’s good how they try to cure their ignorance by asking ‘Why?’ all the time, but even then, a child will trust her own interpretation more than she trusts the answer for her question.
A child’s perception also skews how they interact with the world. Simple things – like the dark, mannequins, or balloons – paralyze them in fear; but they are oblivious to the real dangers in life – like poisons, traffic, and sharp objects.
A child may even fully believe he is doing a good thing, when in fact, there is a dangerous consequence and he is totally unaware of where his actions will take him. When one of my boys was quite young, he was wearing a set of headphones and wandering around the house while he played. However, he was quite upset and threw large fit when I wouldn’t let him plug the headphones into a light socket. In his mind, everything was fine and dad was being completely unreasonable. Even after I told him ‘no’ and removed him from area, he stubbornly persisted.
I think we act toward God like my obstinate little boy. We want what we want, when we want it. We think we’re doing something ok, even something good…but God knows the real, eternal consequence of our actions. Just like a small child…even if we know that what we’re doing is wrong, we still chase after our ignorant desires.
But thankfully, God is willing to forgive our selfish, self-focused actions. Take a look at how Paul describes God’s forgiveness:
1 Timothy 1:12-14
I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry – one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man.
Since it was out of ignorance that I had acted in unbelief, I received mercy, and the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Like a small child, Paul ignorantly acted on his own self-focused desires. He didn’t believe God, Paul thought he knew better. However, despite Paul’s actions, God extended mercy. The term mercy means to help the afflicted, to show compassion to the wretched. I’ve often heard it described as not giving someone the punishment or consequence they fully deserve.
How was this mercy extended? Paul gives Timothy the first of three trustworthy sayings to take to heart:
1 Timothy 1:15
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance:
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
Paul didn’t say that Jesus came to save those of us who were trying hard to be good. Jesus’ offer of salvation isn’t just to those people who are “basically good” but just mess up every once in a while.
Let’s not gloss over what Paul says Timothy should fully accept – Jesus came for the sinners. Jesus came for those of us who think that God’s work is evil. Jesus came those of us who support harassment and oppression of Jesus followers. Jesus came for those of us who vainly believe that we are the most important. Jesus came for us, despite our ignorance and unbelief.
And after Paul accepted His mercy, Jesus didn’t stop there. Immediately, the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The wretched received an undeserved belonging. He was no longer one of the afflicted ones. He had a family and a purpose.