Music has always been very important in my spiritual life. An uplifting song can be very meaningful. The message in a song can leave a lasting impression. One song that has left an impression on me is titled “Your Kindness.”
I first heard the song in 1985 when it was written and recorded by Leslie Phillips. It is one of those songs that stays with me. The lyrics still speak to me.
“Waiting for angry words to sear my soul. Knowing I don’t deserve another chance.
Suddenly the kindest words I’ve ever heard come flooding through my heart.
It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, Oh Lord.
Knowing that You love us no matter what we do, makes us want to love You too.”
The idea for the song comes from a Bible verse that we can find in Romans 2:4, “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?”
What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? Is it your Pastor? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.
I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. Did that make me sorry? Did it bring about repentance? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught. True godly sorrow brings about repentance, and true repentance brings about change.
What is it that brings us to Godly Sorrow? What causes us to be truly sorry for our sins, to bring us to repentance? It is when we realize how much God loves us and when we see the kindness that he has shown to us and to everyone.
Romans 11:22 shows us a little different viewpoint on God’s kindness. “Consider, then, the kindness and severity of God: his severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness toward you—if you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off.” Paul here is talking about his Jewish countrymen who had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Because of their unbelief God had to cut them off, just as he will cut us off if we don’t accept Jesus as our Savior.
Knowing that God has a severe side along with his kindness brings us to an interesting question. Should the severity of God bring us to repentance? Should the fear of punishment be the catalyst that makes us repent? I think that our criminal justice system should make us realize that fear of punishment does not bring about repentance.
For many years I helped with the Pathfinder Club in my church. A couple of times a year we would take the kids camping. When you take kids camping, you can get into some very interesting discussions. On one trip I had a Pathfinder ask me a question. They wanted to know, why does God torture people in hellfire for all of eternity for bad things they do in just a few years of life? How do you answer such a question to some kids sitting around a campfire?
It’s no wonder that so many people find it difficult to reconcile a God who is perfectly just with a punishment that is clearly unjust. Fortunately, the Bible is very clear on this teaching.
First, we must remember that God is love (1 John 4:8). The Bible says as much as we love our children, God loves His even more. And you are His child!
Second, the Bible does indicate there is a hell. Jesus says there is (Matthew 10:28). But here is what Jesus says about hell in Matthew 13:40: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.” What can we learn from this verse?
First, hell won’t exist until “the end of this world.” Wouldn’t that mean nobody today is burning in hell? Second, it says the tares (in this case, it means the wicked) are burned. It is a real place where the wicked will be burned.
But the Bible doesn’t say hell will last forever. It teaches that hell destroys the wicked, once and for all. It makes it clear that hell is a place where the wicked perish in fire. They will burn up as “stubble” and will “become ashes” (Malachi 4:1, 3). Psalm 68:2 says, “as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”
Even the most popular verse of the Bible supports this position. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice that the wicked “perish.” They die. They cease to exist. Only the righteous have everlasting life.
The purpose of hell, according to the Bible, is to destroy sinners forever and create a universe without sin. That’s going to be a great place to live, don’t you think?
Richie Lawry is an Elder at Mena Seventh-Day Adventist Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to the Mena Star for sending Lawry's columns to First Arkansas News.