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The Audacity of Hope

March 21, 2016

This is an excerpt from a book by Pastor Colin Smith called, Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2015, 96 pp. $8.99.

‘Jesus,’ I said, ‘Remember me when you come

into your kingdom.’

 

It was an audacious request. A few moments

before, I had been in league with the crowd and

the second victim, pouring out curses on Jesus.

If He remembered this when He came into His

kingdom, I would be done for.

 

In truth, I suspected that I may be done for

already. My mind kept going back to my mother

teaching us the Ten Commandments: You

shall not steal. You shall not covet. You shall

have no other God before me. I could hear

her voice and picture her slightly bent finger

pointing at me:

 

‘Live the right way and all will end well. Live

the wrong way and you had better watch out.’

‘God is watching you. He sees everything and

He never forgets.’

 

‘You always reap what you sow.’

 

If she was right, there was no hope for me. I had

made my choices and was facing the consequence.

I had sown my seed and was moving inexorably

toward the harvest. There was no going back.

With all my heart I hoped that my mother was

wrong.

 

Hope began for me in the strange words of

Jesus that at first had filled me with hate:

‘Father, forgive them, they do not know what

they are doing.’

 

Forgiveness! If Jesus could offer forgiveness to

His torturers, perhaps He would offer forgiveness

to me. At first this had sounded like the very weakness

I despised, but at that moment it seemed to

open a glorious and unexpected window of hope.

 

Forgiveness was scarce in the legalistic, moral

world my mother spoke of so often. To her, the

universe was an unbreakable system of cause and

effect, regulated by a rules-oriented God. ‘Do

good, and all will be well. Do bad, and you had

better watch out.’ There was no hope for a person

like me in that. If you honestly measure your life

by the commandments of God, I suspect you will

come to the same conclusion. Reaping what you

sow is not good news for any of us. Forgiveness is.

 

If Jesus remembered me when He came into

His kingdom, there might be some hope for me.

But what would be in it for Him? I couldn’t think

of anything. If He took an interest in me, it would

not be because of anything I had done or anything

I could offer. If He remembered me at all, it would

be an act of undeserved mercy and kindness. But

that was exactly what He offered to the soldiers

who crucified Him. He showed them mercy and

kindness. Would He do the same for me?

 

I asked Him to remember me.

Of course, in asking, I broke ranks with the

crowd. Their scorn for Jesus continued, and by

identifying with Him I brought their scorn on me.

But what did that matter? I had lived too

long at a distance from God. As a self-appointed

champion of justice, I had poured myself into

retaliation for the Roman extortions; an eye for

an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Now, as I reached

the end of my road, I saw how hopeless I would

be if God were to treat me with the same justice.

Forgiveness sounded sweet, and if that were

possible for me, I wanted to know more.

 

What I did was deceptively simple: I began

to fear God. I recognized my sinful condition.

I believed that Jesus was who He said He was

– the Christ, the Messiah – and I asked Him to

save me. That is something you can do too.

 

In doing this, I gave up all the hostility in my

heart and I abandoned my illusion of having a life

that would somehow be impressive to God.

I placed my life, as it was, with all that I had done,

into the hands of Jesus. My hands outstretched

to His hands outstretched. I believed in Him as

the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and the

King and left the rest up to Him.

 

Clinging to life by a slender thread, I gasped

for breath and waited for Him to respond.

Read the rest of Heaven, How I Got Hereor join us on Good Friday, March 25 for the Radio Drama Special, right here on our website.

the audacity of hope


The Author
Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a writer and Bible teacher. She has previously served as content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband Brad are parents to their sweet daughter and members of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Itasca, Ill.



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