The Second Mile
While preaching at an evangelistic meeting not too long ago, I noticed a man in the audience with an expression of pain on his face. After the meeting, I asked him if I could help him and he placed his hands on his side and said, "I am in pain. I need fresh air." I walked him out of the church and sat him down. As we started talking, I realized that this was someone I knew and had not seen for years. However, he was no longer the young energetic man that was once part of the church. He told me he had recently fallen and had injured his ribs. His pain was evident, but it went beyond the bruising on his face. He shared with me that he had lost his marriage and children due to drug addiction and he was now alone, homeless, broke and hopeless. He said that he wanted help and I could see his desire to turn to God, but he said he felt unworthy to return to church. In anguish he said, "I have already been baptized twice.”
Whenever I meet someone who has fallen to sin repeatedly and wonders if the church will accept them with open arms or rejection, I cannot help but ask, How deep is God’s mercy and as a Church, how should we react when a person who fails more than once expresses they want to be restored? Shouldn’t we walk the second mile and give meaning to what Jesus said in Matthew 18:22, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." And shouldn’t we be careful when thinking we can decide when a person can no longer be worthy of God’s grace after failing “too many times”?
In the Gospels we find the story of Mary who was considered a great sinner. The Desire of Ages tells us that Jesus could have “extinguished every spark of hope in her soul, but He did not. It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin.” Praise God for his goodness, patience and His great mercy! The author continues, “Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away… Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration.”
These words make me think of this hurting man who stumbled into that meeting that night. The help he needed most was getting pointed to the only source of hope and the only One who could restore him… seventy-seven more times if necessary. Today, I urge all of us to keep this in mind. Let us follow Jesus’ example and be careful not to limit God's mercy by closing the door to those who need Him most. By praying diligently, we can exercise love, tenderness, patience and self-control when dealing with those who are seeking acceptance into our churches. May God use us as instruments of His glory, goodness and mercy because we never know if there will come a time when we will need to be shown the same kind of loving mercy.
By Jose Manuel Rodriguez, Family Ministries Director