Surely some don’t deserve to be saved

Aren’t some people so terrible they’re beyond saving? Like Attila the Hun who killed for the thrill of killing, or the priest who abuses hundreds of children and mocks his prosecutors, or any brutal criminal who shows no remorse for his cruelty.

But even the worst of people has been “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” Romans 5:10, including Hitler and all the other genocidal maniacs like him. But how could God forgive such people for the horrors they’ve perpetrated? Surely they don’t deserve to be saved. Why on earth would God even want to save them?

But, Paul writes, we’ve all been “made alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions,” Ephesians 2:5. And God’s reason for doing that is? “In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,” verse 7. Well, he’s certainly done that, because how could anyone put up with the likes of us humans? Just watching the News makes me want to do serious damage to some people, so what does God feel?

Well, Paul tells us what God feels. “I was shown mercy,” he writes in 1 Timothy 1:13, “because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” Paul had no idea what he was doing at the time, and God took that into account. Talk about grace. Did I have that kind of grace as a parent when my kids did something really idiotic? But here was Paul, “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” verse 13, directing all his fury against Christians too, so imagine being God and having to watch Paul tear apart the church he’d just birthed. If anyone fit the category “doesn’t deserve to be saved,” it was Paul.

But God accepted Paul’s ignorance. And that now stands as a beautiful example of how God feels and how he reacts to people who suddenly see themselves as they really are and wonder how God could ever forgive them. “I was shown mercy,” Paul continues in verse 16, “so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

Imagine being Hitler on the day he realizes the enormity of what he did. “How can God ever forgive me?” he’ll ask himself. But God’s put up with millions of people just like him, who did terrible things without ever acknowledging they were wrong, but God never lost patience with them. In fact, he doesn’t hold anything they did against them, 2 Corinthians 5:19. Imagine Hitler’s relief, just like our relief when we too saw God for who he really is.

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