Never Too Late (20-02-23)
Psalm of Praise: Psalms 108:5-6
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
Bible Reading: Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:
"Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"
But the other criminal rebuked him.
"Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
Often in a discussion about forgiveness, and the Christian truth that we inherit eternal life through repentance and faith in Jesus, the question about political tyrants and mass murderers comes up. ‘But what about Hitler (or Pol Pot, Idi Amin…), would they go to heaven if they repented?’
The answer, however difficult it might seem to us, has to be ‘Yes’. Jesus bore the sins of the whole of humanity on his body on the cross, so that anyone who turns to him can be forgiven. As the thief on the cross shows us, it is never too late to turn to Christ. But as his fellow thief shows us, not everyone will make that decision. It is a matter of the heart, and sadly many people have set their hearts against God, a decision that affects their choices for this life and for the next.
The truth is, though, that Jesus died for tyrants and mass murderers, just as he died for you and for me. As with the two thieves crucified with Jesus, he knows our hearts as he knew theirs, and so we leave the awkward decisions about eternity to him.
But we can take encouragement from the conversation between Jesus and the thief on the cross who turned to him. I am sure we all know and love people who show no signs at the moment of becoming followers of Jesus or have died without expressing any sense of belief in him. It is never too late, and some do turn to Christ on their deathbed.
And it is not a matter of using the right words or following the correct rituals. With the thief on the cross there was no standard prayer for salvation, he wasn’t baptised, he didn’t have the last rites, he simply recognised the kingship of Jesus and turned to him.
Are their people you long to see find faith in Jesus? Maybe members of your family, friends or neighbours. Let the example of the thief on the cross encourage you to keep on praying for them and to never give up. They may have chosen to wrong road at the moment but at some point along that road something can cause them to stop, to reflect, to remember your words and to turn to Christ. It is never too late.
In the silence, lift to God those on your hear who are not yet followers of Jesus…
Soften their heart, Lord, that they might to turn to you.
How deep the Father’s love