. . . do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (NASB Rom 2:4)
This scripture is one of my all-time favorites to pray when my heart is gushing with gratitude for the way God handles, with such kindness, my many imperfections. He and I both know I don’t deserve it. Ah, the many, many benefits of serving our God![i] He navigates us through such choppy waters, and the twists and turns in life’s road—and He does it so graciously.
I also pray this Romans 2 verse for those still needing salvation. “Lord, show them again today, Your love, Your mercy, Your kindness, because it’s Your kindness that will wear down their hard-hearted resistance and lead them to repentance.”
It’s a good prayer. It’s scriptural. We all know God’s Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.[ii]
“Thank You, Lord, for exercising such phenomenal patience toward the undeserving. Win them over with Your kindness. Overwhelm them with Your love. Show them Your glory like You did Moses— The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth—and they too will no doubt bow their heads toward the earth and worship You.[iii] I want them to turn from sin and serve You wholeheartedly.”
While I’m praying thus with my mouth, my heart is formulating its own interpretation. Lord, get them out of the jam they’re in. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them. Don’t let them be hurt. Spare them the heartache and suffering. Prosper them. Make them happy. In other words, Lord, use the soft touch, a gentle means of persuading them. Work in such a way that their lives aren’t ruffled. Keep them comfortable and safe.
But what if, in God’s mind, the kindness of God leads you to repentance had a slightly different and more impactful connotation than what I’ve pictured? What if He shifted my thinking to; Lord, I realize that You don’t have to lead the unsaved to repentance. You could leave them to their own devices, setting the stage in such a way that is conducive to keeping them comfy and safe. But that only leads to death. Would You lead them to repentance—by whatever means You deem necessary for them to really connect with You? It’s the kindest thing You could ever do for them.
I don’t really want Him to just keep them happy—only to find at the last day, that they are bound into bundles to be burned with all the others who gave God no mind.[iv] What I want for them is His kindness that goes far beyond the fleeting blessings and comforts of this age.
Such benevolence our long-suffering Judge exercises toward us guilty ones! But with eternity on the line, and darkness as extreme as it is and increasing, we can't settle for anything less than God saving lives by whatever means necessary.