Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT) (emphasis mine)
If you have a friend or family member who is making bad choices, you probably want very much to rescue them from the consequences that loom on the horizon. You might consider impassioned warnings, perhaps loud and stern condemnation. You might want to give up on them and turn away. Paul tells us in Romans that the method God uses to turn us from our sin is kindness, tolerance and patience.
These are not three things that most people think of when they think of God. At least that has been my discovery as I have talked with people over the last 30+ years. Many, if not most people think that God is holding a list in His hand and watching to see how many things you manage to get checked off before your time is up. On the other hand, some people think that God is a kind of Santa or genie in a bottle to grant wishes. I have found those people to be very few — usually because if they approached God with that concept in mind, they were quickly disappointed and moved on.
In the environment I lived in for over 30 years, I was given the impression that God loved me in a general way, (my sins were forgiven and I would go to Heaven) but that He would only be pleased with me if I followed a very strict code of behavior, which those in authority would specifically define and although not taught in the Bible, certain verses, if taken out of their context, could be used to “back up” the list. It almost seems amusing to look over that list now. It could even be funny, if it weren’t so sad to me that many people are still being held hostage to this teaching.
I have to wonder why there is a tendency to walk away from grace so quickly and devise some kind of system to measure one another’s spiritual condition. I still know Christians who want to play the role of God’s policeman. It reminds me a little of Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show. He was so zealous in his role that in one episode, he had arrested the entire community, including the mayor, Aunt Bee and even Opie. Some Christians, just like Barney, want to whip out their ticket book and issue citations to everyone around them. Even though God clearly warns us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37; James 4:11-12) and yet it is so easy to make that our life’s purpose.
I want to pattern myself after God, who is kind, tolerant and patient. After all, it was God’s kind, tolerant and patient love that motivated Him to send His only Son, Jesus to pay the ultimate price so that we could be forgiven and transformed into His children forever.