Grace is greater than sin. He was a serial killer, responsible for the deaths of at least twenty-eight women. He was finally apprehended, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Was he a sinner? No question. He had been involved in hard core porn and then he acted out what he had seen in the magazines. He murdered after he had raped. Outside the prison the day before his execution were people with signs that read “Burn” and “You’re Dead”. Was there any hope for such a person that some labeled as a monster?
Before answering that question, consider several facts. Jesus said that if a man looked at a woman to lust after her, he had already committed adultery in his heart. How many holding signs condemning the convict had themselves been at heart adulterers? The Lord also said that to hate a person in your heart is equivalent to murder, so how many who rejoiced in the death of the serial killer were guilty of the same heart crime? The fact is, no one is in a position of self-righteousness to malevolently look down on those who have been caught. The law is in place to do two things: show what is wrong and give an appropriate punishment to fit the crime. But crimes of the heart are undetected, except by God. He does not miss any transgression, open or secret. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13b).
Which is why we all need grace. Without grace no one would be saved. But “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” That is why David, who had committed adultery and then covered it up with an arranged killing, could say, “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Ps. 32:2). When he became honest and sought help, he found it. That is why Ted Bundy, the day before his execution, could testify that Christ was his hope of life after death. That is why the songwriter could declare, “Yes, I know. Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.” Grace is greater than sin.
Mercy is better than judgment. As a child, I received plenty of whippings, mostly well deserved. On one occasion, after I had committed some transgression, my father told me, “You’re going to catch it!” In great trepidation I waited for him to come down the stairs and mete out the impending punishment. And I prayed. It was a short prayer. To the point. “Dear Lord, please have my dad not give me a spanking.” When he came down the stairs, he looked at me and said, “Just get in the car.” Two things brought a sense of wonder to that small boy. One was that God really does answer prayers. Two was that my dad had a merciful side. I still recall that sense of awe with which I took my seat in the car. It impacted me more than any punishment I remember. Perhaps that is why James wrote, “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Mercy is better than judgment.
Truth is better than falsehood. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying that “A lie travels round the world, while Truth is putting on her boots.” An anonymous source said that a lie is a very present help in trouble. The problem is that eventually the truth comes out. Then the lie is exposed and the trouble is compounded. Had Richard Nixon not covered up a petty burglary that he had nothing to do with, he would never have had to resign the Presidency. When the great Apostle Paul wrote of the new man in Christ, the first change he noted was about truth. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). Truth is better than falsehood.
Forgiveness is better than bitterness. The young man was literally crying at the altar. He had responded to a message that described the negative outcome of bitterness allowed to fester in his heart. I knelt beside him and he told me his problem. His uncle had repeatedly abused him when he was a young boy. “I know I need to forgive him. But there is a problem. He is dead and in the grave. What can I do? I still have feelings of resentment and bitterness. Would it be wrong for me to go to his grave and tell him I forgive him?” I encouraged him. Even though his uncle was dead, it would be good if he would go and verbally state his forgiveness. That day he went to the grave site. He spoke words of forgiveness. And he found peace. He had been holding bitterness in his heart toward a dead man. Now he had replaced that with forgiveness. The issue was not with the uncle. It was in his heart. The Bible warns of a root of bitterness. It troubles you. Forgiveness is better than bitterness.
Humility is better than pride. The young preacher held his head high as he ascended the pulpit. He had a well-prepared message and his air was one of confidence. After he opened his notes, he began his homily. However, as he began, his focus became blurred. He forgot his place several times. His once confident tone was replaced by a tentative whine. After a miserable fifteen minutes, he closed the service. He descended from the platform with his head down. An old man stopped him as he reached the aisle. “If you had gone up the way you came down, young man, you would have come down the way you went up.” He reflected the truth that a haughty spirit goes before a fall. Humility is better than pride.
Love is best. We are admonished in scripture to “approve things that are excellent.” After giving a description of various ways ministry is accomplished, Paul said, “Yet I show unto you a more excellent way.” He then gave the great definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love can operate in any circumstance, under any scrutiny, in any culture, and at any age. Love is what enables us to choose the better things. Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. The truths of grace, mercy, truth, forgiveness, and humility are foundational to living a life of love. Love does better things. It does not look for an easy way out, but looks for the right way.
The Lord Jesus did not take an easy way when He came to earth. Making all the better things possible led Him to the cross and the tomb. But He rose on the third day making them possible for us. He did it in the most excellent way. He loved us.