Remember the TV show “Maude?” The lead character was loud, bossy, domineering and sometimes funny. Whenever someone crossed her, she almost always retorted, “God’s going to get you for that!
In November, someone stole a tropical bird from an Edmonton pet store. Last week the thief telephoned the store to let them know the bird was safely in a box at the door of the pet shop. He returned it because he was afraid “God would get him” for what he had done.
I’m not well acquainted with many thieves, but what I know about criminals indicates most don’t plan on getting caught nor do they consider before the crime just what the penalty might be. Neither does it occur to them (or to very many other people for that matter) what God might do. This thief seems an exception rather than the rule. No wonder his confession made headlines.
Maybe he was a paranoid fanatic who had watched too many episodes of Maude. I would like to think better. Perhaps a faithful parent taught him something about consequences. Maybe a Christian Sunday school teacher explained how unjust people may go through life without getting caught and even enter the grave unpunished, but there is one more check stop after that one. At least this thief paid heed to his conscience.
Some ‘holier-than-thou’ types might suggest if he was so spiritually minded, why did he take the bird in the first place? While he can’t plead “everyone gives in to temptation now and then” before a court of law, the fact of the matter is that everyone does give into temptation at times.
No one can point a finger in utter innocence at anyone else. Perhaps all of us have taken something that didn’t belong to us at one time or another. The difference between this fellow and a “common” thief is that he let the fear of God motivate a turn-around after his sin was committed.
The fear of God is a rare commodity. Atheists, agnostics, and skeptics claim God is dead or never was, or God doesn’t care. A vast majority simply form their opinion through personal experience without checking what He says about Himself in His Word.
When personal experience becomes the Bible, then if bolts of lightning don’t fall from the sky after every sin is committed, “judgment” is dismissed as an imaginary iron fist that religious people hold over poor souls.
Others argue that God is much too loving to punish anyone, and guilt is simply a human quirk that needs to be ignored. But what does God say about His judgment?
First, Romans 9:22 says God may withhold punishment so we will know that His character includes both anger at sin and great patience with sinners. Some think God is a vindictive tyrant without compassion, while others think He is loving and kind, looking the other way when we disobey Him.
Neither are true. This verse asks, “What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath. . . what if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy?”
Because we tend to ‘make God in our own image,’ our view of God is often more like we are than He is. Our common reaction when offended is instant retaliation. Since God does not take immediate vengeance, we tend to think He just isn’t looking, or caring what happens because “if I were God, my reaction would be instant . . . I’d get him for that!”
But the Bible says God is patient, merciful, and long suffering. Simply put, that means He does not deal with us according to what our sins deserve. He has put His wrath on hold, as it were, waiting for responses to His mercy. “God is not slow in keeping His promise, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
When Maude said, “God is going to get your for that,” she got a laugh. When God said it, He hoped to get repentance and faith — so He can forgive whatever ‘it’ is and give the offender eternal life.