The Duchess of Buckingham attended Lady Huntingdon’s Chapel of Bath and heard the plain teachings of those people called Methodists. “It is monstruous,” she protested, “to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth.” I do not wonder that her ladyship relished such sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.
On the other hand, do you remember Fleur, old Soames Forsyte’s daughter in John Galsworthy’s novel, Swan Song? Fleur caused a destructive fire on the family homestead through willful negligence. Watching the firemen try to save cherished paintings, Soames sees Fleur directly in the path of a heavy frame about to fall. He pushes her out of the way, but is mortally wounded. Kneeling by him, she takes his hand and in remorse penitently promises “Yes, Dad, I will be good.”
Soames gave his life for his daugher’s sinfulness, loving her at the highest cost he could pay. She was redeemed and forgiven. Men have fallen on their knees in the face of love like that and thanked God. Yet, these people did not redeem the other person the way Christ did. They did not substitute for God working in us, but their sacrifice would never have been made had not God first loved us at the cross.
But, what if this father who sacrifices himself for us is none other than God, our Heavenly Father? What if He willingly takes the consequences of our willfulness and turns to us still with love. This becomes the power of sin broken, for it has nowhere else to go. This is grace! William Temple concluded, “In Christ’s agony, we see what our sin cost God; and in his bearing before his enemies we see how God regards us as we inflict the blow ... We cannot go on wounding one who accepts our wounds like that; we are filled with fear, not the old craven fear of punishment, but the fear of wounding the tenderest of all hearts.”
On the deepest level of life, Christ intercedes for us by bringing us back into full fellowship with our Heavenly Father. A young woman was stabbed and taken by ambulance to the great hospital. There she was assigned a nurse to sit with her, until she died. Looking at the lines in the young girl’s face, the nurse thought what a pity for such a pretty face.
Then the girl opened her eyes, whispering, “I want you to tell me something and tell me straight. Do you think God cares about people like me? Do you think he could forgive anyone as bad as me?”
Not daring to respond until she asked for God’s help, she responded, “I’m telling you straight; God cares about you and He forgives you.” The girl sighed and slipped into unconsciousness, her facial lines softening with approaching death. But something happened between God and that girl. In that moment, something happened that reminds us of another day on a green hill outside a city wall long ago. John Masefield described it in The Everlasting Mercy:
Saul Kane was a depraved, lecherous man, fastening his sins upon young people and pulling them down into his pit. Drunken, profane, full of lust, he was confronted by a gentle Quaker lady:
“Saul Kane,” she said, “When next you drink
Do me the gentleness to think
That every drop of drink accursed
Makes Christ within you die of thirst.
That every dirty word you say
Is one more flint upon His way,
Another thorn about His head,
Another mock by where He treads,
Another nail, another cross.”
Saul Kane saw in the horrible light of God’s judgment what he had done; children ruined, life depraved, a mother’s broken heart. What a burden for one man to carry! In the mystery of God’s goodness he realized he did not have to carry it any longer. He felt the presence of Christ close to him.
That Christ was standing there with me,
That Christ should plough, and as I ploughed
My Savior Christ would sing aloud,
As I drove the clods apart
Christ would be ploughing in my heart.
Through rest harrow and bitter roots.
Through all my bad life’s rotten fruits.
O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight…
O clover-cops half white, half red
O beauty from behind the dead,
O blossom, key to earth and heaven,
O souls that Christ has now forgiven.
Saul Kane found God had not forsaken him in the darkness of his sin. What he could not conquer in his his own strength, he conquered by the power of God through Christ. When our life harbors rotten fruit, we need not hold it for harvest. We can plow it under, burn it with consuming fire, and say experientially what Saul Kane said poetically:
The water’s going out to sea
And there’s a great moon calling me;
But there’s a great sun calls the moon,
And all God’s bells with carol soon
For joy and glory and delight
Of someone coming home tonight.
This is firstname.lastname@example.org
inviting you to discover the God who transforms life from sorrow to peace. Let Him delete the condemnation of sin from your life. Like Saul Kane, let God fill you with his own strength and joy. When sin leaves you with no other way to go, God will do for you what you could never do in your own strength!