I was once asked why I thought young people were leaving the church in droves after they graduated high school. As a director of youth and family ministry, I’m well positioned to answer. My response: Sunday school. We’re losing young people as children in Sunday school because we’re teaching Bible stories to modify behavior and Bible characters as moral examples to follow in hopes of making children good little Christian boys and girls.
The problem here, besides the Law’s lack of power to adjust our actions no matter how many times it is taught and preached, is that the people we meet in the Bible are far from righteous and moral examples. Even after God calls them, redeems them, and credits them His righteousness, they go down in flames.
Sinful, broken people pour out of the pages of Scripture. Everywhere we read we find sinner after sinner. Not only that, these are some of the most wretched and foul-smelling sinners imaginable.
Abraham lied (twice) to save his own skin, saying Sarah was his sister and not his wife. Simeon and Levi convinced the men of an entire village to be circumcised so they could slaughter them in retaliation for the rape of their sister. Meanwhile, their father, Jacob, was more concerned about his reputation in the region after he learned what they did. Aaron followed the heart of the people and built them a golden idol to worship and to attribute the saving work of God. Moses disobeyed God and hit the rock instead of speaking to it to bring water out of it, even though God had never let him down before. Jesus' very own disciples struggled to understand who He was, even after His resurrection. Peter tried to keep Jesus from the cross and denied knowing Him three times. The list of examples of sinners in the Bible is nearly endless.
If the people we read about in Scripture are any kind of example, they are examples of God’s boundless grace.
Scripture never hides or glosses over the sins of the people it contains. In fact, it puts them on display all the more so that God’s gracious nature — His mercy, His being slow to anger, His abounding in steadfast love, and His relenting from disaster — shines all the more brightly. That Scripture highlights the mistakes of its characters shows that the Bible isn’t about them, but about God and His grace.
The culmination of this shining light of grace emanates from Christ crucified. On the cross, He paid for the sin of all those we read about in the Bible, and He paid for your sin and my sin. Like the people we read about in Scripture, we are examples of God’s boundless grace. He never ceases to forgive us.