The God of second chances

The God of second chances

In our culture, if you make a mistake, you’re out. One wrong tweet can mean that people boycott your books. One thoughtless soundbite in a press conference and you might not be up for re-election. It does not take much for the online mob to call for your blood. For a society which likes to pride itself on tolerance, anyone who speaks against the accepted truth can end up excluded forever.

God is not like that. What a wonderful thing! We worship a God of second chances.

The apostle Peter denied Jesus on the night Jesus was arrested. And not only once, not just a minor mistake, but three categorical denials that he even knew Jesus! Only a few hours earlier, Peter had promised that he would never abandon Jesus and would even die for him. It was right for Peter to weep bitterly as he realised what he had done. This was no minor infraction; at the first opportunity, Peter showed his weakness and cowardice.

Yet that was not the end for Peter. He was restored by Jesus at the end of John’s gospel. And he went on to become one of the leaders in the early church, facing much persecution for his faith and teaching. God gave him a second chance.

And this is not an isolated thing for God, either. You can find God acting in this way so often in the Bible. Think about David, who committed adultery, murder, lying and more. Yes, he suffered as a result of his sin, both in terms of judgement from God and the breakdown of his own family. But God did not cancel David. He was not excluded forever. He remained king, he was brought to repentance, and he remained one of God’s people.

Or think about the apostle Paul. God brought him from being a persecutor of the church to being one of its leaders. Or think about Elijah. God brought him from being depressed and having no hope to continuing in his service, anointing kings and appointing a successor. God is like that. And we all need Him to be like that.

To be a Christian is to know that our position before God is not due to our perfection. We don’t ever earn our way into God’s favour. We are weak like Peter, hopeless like Elijah, and intentionally sinful like David. If we were to be excluded for our many mistakes, there would be no-one left. The good news is that Jesus died in the place of people who don’t only make mistakes but who could be counted as enemies of God. In order to be saved, we need to realise that we are people who don’t deserve it and God in His grace has saved us anyway.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your sin? Do you feel the many ways that you fall short of God’s standards, and even your own standards? That’s a good start. We need to feel that. But we also need to come to Jesus in faith, trusting that He gives second chances. We need to ask for help with our sin, and be constantly thankful for the second (and third and fourth…) chances we have been given by the grace of God.

This also means that we need to give other people second chances as well. The Christian church should be distinctive in our cancel culture as a place where everyone is welcome. The church is made up of people who have made terrible mistakes, people who are weak, people who have wandered off God’s path into sin. What we all have in common is not that we are good people; instead, we are sinners who have been given second chances.

It surely is amazing grace that saved a wretch like me!