46Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.
What a strange response Paul & Barnabas had when the Jews rejected their preaching the Good News of Christ and the word of God. Instead of being angry, and upset. Instead of arguing or debating the matter, Paul & Barnabas simply stated the Jews had judged themselves “unworthy” of eternal life. Unworthy of eternal life…
Of course, the Jews thought nothing of the sort. But Paul and Barnabas, using a clever phrase that shifted the inability to convert the Jews off of themselves and put the matter squarely where it belonged. That being on the heads and hearts of Jews themselves. “Well, if you deem yourselves unworthy of God’s glorious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we’ll just go share the Good News with those Gentiles over yonder who feel worthy indeed.”
When you think of it, Paul’s retort to the Jews was a bit humorous. Even comical. Although there is surely nothing funny about feelings of unworthiness and certainly there is no humor at all in one refusing a gift as monumental as salvation and eternal life.
Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s blessings? I certainly have. And in fact, I am. So are you. None of us are worthy of eternal life. From childhood through old age we demonstrate our unworthiness over and over again by repeating our mistakes and misdeeds. “For no one is worthy. No not one!” (exclamation point, mine.)
That said, I often wonder why God still loves us when we seem to do our best to be at our worst. During my days as a young Catholic boy I dreaded confession. I’d go into the church and look for the longest line leading to the nicest Priest. The closer I got to that little booth, the more nervous and scared I became. At the time my biggest sins were fighting with my brothers and disobeying my parents. Since then I’ve moved up in the sin category. Now my faults are many and still God loves and forgives.
I wonder what came first the forgiveness or the love. It had to be love, right? Without love, who could forgive? Well, God could. But I think it’s His great unconditional love that allows Him to forgive sinners like me. Unconditional love. That means God says no matter what you do – I’ll still love you. Murder? Yes! Adultery? Yep! Lying on my taxes? That too.
How about cheating on exams, stealing from the church, and saluting a fellow driver on a busy interstate? Yep. Yes. Yowza. Now, God’s love and forgiveness doesn’t mean we have a “get out of hell free card” and we can do as we please. What it means is God’s love surpasses our understanding. Would you forgive the things God forgives. Me neither. But God does. And it’s His amazing, unbelievable, unconditional love that assures us of eternal life.
Like the Jews that scoffed at Paul and Barnabas, I too have been scoffing at God. Not believing all the incredible things He has in store for me. In store for you. Today, I’m a believer. I’ve seen what that love can do. God’s love can heal a heart. Mend a relationship. Fix a feud and quiet the inner storm that rages inside the most hardened souls of His people. Through Jesus, He reclaimed us. I think God deserves a huge gift from the human race, don’t you? But instead, He gives us a gift. The gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for all our unworthiness. Wow! That – is huge!!!
“Lord, I can’t begin to understand why you love me or forgive me. I only know that you do. Help me to show just a small part of your big, big love to others. Give me the words and courage to share your great gift with the world.”
Today’s song: “Forgiveness” – Matthew West.