As I sat in the waiting room of a professional counsellor’s office all I could ask God was: What kind of God are you? I starred in a motionless, perplexed trance at an empty chair across the room pondering this question.
I had just read an article in Newsweek magazine about Billy Graham. The cover story was entitled, “Pilgrims Progress,” and it reviewed some of Graham’s history as the world’s most well-known evangelist with the bulk of the article focussing on Billy Graham’s current life: his health, daily routines and priorities, especially now at the age of 87. At one point he commented, “I think about heaven a great deal …” In the past, I’ve thought about heaven as well, more specifically when Billy Graham goes to heaven.
I’ve pondered what kind of massive celebration God will prepare when Mr. Graham passes through heaven’s gates and is greeted by the maybe millions he has helped during his life time pass through the same gates. I wonder how broad Jesus’ smile will be when the two meet and embrace each other face to face for the first time.
I’m not sure I’ve thought of anyone else’s experience in heaven as much as Billy Graham’s. I guess it’s just never been hard to imagine him there. It’s just been so easy to believe God loves Billy Graham very much.
I flipped from page 41 where the article concluded, looking for something else to steal my time as I continued to wait in the office. Eventually I stopped at page 31. The title of that article was, “Chasing Down a Killer’s Story.” I admit, I didn’t read the article, although there was a rather morbid list at the bottom of the page entitled, “American Psychos” which listed the top 10 worst serial killers in the United States. The serial killer’s picture and a brief history of their killing sprees were included along with their fate, the most common being: in jail, executed or killed. In total these 10 men had ended the lives of 260 others. It was a morbid article indeed.
As I read the short descriptions of the killing sprees these men had, I’m quick to admit, it creeped me out. “What kind of person would do something like that?” I enquired. As I looked at their faces, I wondered what had occurred in their lives to influence them to choose such actions. What drives a man to take the lives of 48 people? As boys, what kind of environment did these men grow up in? And as well, what kind of deeply wounded and scarred individual would want to carry out such atrocities?
And then it dawned on me. A thought crossed my mind just as I flipped the page to a more hopeful or less depressing story. This thought ripped at my sense of justice as any ever has, and gripped me so, that my fingers quickly travelled back to page 31 to gaze upon these men’s faces and into their eyes from a different perspective. The thought was that God loved these men just as much as He loved Billy Graham. At first, I almost labelled the suggestion with my conscious as yet another “Biblical truth” that yes I technically knew, but actually didn’t take the time to meditate on, letting it (or maybe wanting it) to absorb into my believing conscious. This time was different though, as I gazed into their eyes, I looked at them repeating the suggestion over and over in my mind that God deeply loved them … and the thought disturbed me.
That’s when I asked God, What kind of God are you? I didn’t ask Him in an irreverent way, supposing God was making a mistake by loving these men. But I was held in a state of awe and almost confused astonishment at how immensely more different God’s love is than my own. My own shock in fact, at such a revelation, only suggested to me of my tendency to quickly judge and condemn—they were mass murderers after all.
Yet it was all too ironic that the previous afternoon I had read Paul’s words written to the Christians in Rome found in Romans 2:1-4. There he mentions that when we pass judgement on someone else, we actually condemn ourselves because we do the same things—we break the same law God told us not too. Paul will go on to say that, “… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, TNIV). And if this weren’t enough to convince me I shouldn’t be so surprised God would love those 10 men as much as Billy Graham, a quick look at Jesus’ teaching on God’s perspective regarding murder might be enough: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21, 22, TNIV).
God reminded me today that His love for people isn’t on some sort of spiritual scale. He doesn’t love Billy Graham the most and the killing spree murderers the least. And He has never stuck me on the scale somewhere in the middle, just because I’ve never literally killed someone, yet on the other hand, haven’t helped hundred’s of thousands into His Kingdom. When I consider the depths of my own depravity, I would be foolish not to be extremely grateful He doesn’t use a scale. God taught me today that the “scale” I so often use on others, doesn’t even exist for Him. His love for all people isn’t linear—it’s unlimited.
Jeremiah 9:23, 24