“While We Were Yet Sinners…”
Arguably the most amazing verses describing the love of God for us is found in Romans 5:6-8: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not only were we unworthy, we were rebellious, insurrectionists, sinners. Yet this did not detour God. This is did not keep Christ from giving his life for us. In fact, it was the reason he did so. Unbelievable!
Recently I came across a story which gives us some insight into the nature of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The story was told by Dr. Robert Pettersen of Covenant Church of Naples:
During a revival meeting in the late 19th century, a man gave this testimony. He and his brother were identical twins. But they were anything but identical. While his brother flourished in their Christian upbringing, he rebelled. His brother loved Jesus, but he craved the pleasures of the world. His brother was a churchgoer. He frequented saloons and gambling halls. His brother became a successful young businessman. He dissipated his youth until he was a homeless drunk in the Bowery.
Though his twin brother often sought him out and begged him to come to his senses—and, more importantly, to Christ—he repeatedly pushed him away with drunken curses and mockery.
One night he got into a barroom brawl, pulled a knife and slashed a man to death. He fled the scene, the police hot on his trail, and found his way to his twin brother’s apartment. After he blurted out what had happened, his brother got him out of his bloodstained clothes and into bed where he passed out drunk.
His brother put on the bloody clothes, pulled a half-empty flask from the pants, and drenched himself in booze. He then walked, with the bloody knife in hand, to a police station. By the time the guilty twin awakened, his brother was booked for murder while newspapers carried grisly accounts of the killing. Faced with public outrage, the DA called for the death sentence.
At first, the real murderer was happy to be off the hook. Better yet, he had access to his twin’s bank account. He took off on a drinking and gambling binge. He was in a drunken stupor when the jury came back with a guilty verdict and the judge sentenced his brother to the gallows. When he finally heard the news, his conscience was stricken. He rushed back to the city just before the execution. He tried to see his brother, but it was too late. He went to the DA’s office, but he was gone. He rushed back to the prison and pleaded, “I’m the guilty one! You can’t hang my brother!” But the jailors shook their heads in pity, thinking that his were the insane babblings of a grief-stricken brother.
He found his way to a bar, drank himself into another stupor, staggered to his brother’s apartment and dropped into bed. By the time he was awakened by a knock at the door, the hanging had already taken place. The delivery boy tipped his hat and handed him a letter. It contained the final words of his brother. Years later, he stood on the platform at the revival and read the words that had changed his life:
“Dear brother, I always loved you—even when you rejected my Savior. I now go to my death with the full assurance that I will hereafter be with Jesus in heaven. “I lay down my life for you because I love you, as he loved you when he laid down his life. If I allowed you hang now, you would spend eternity in hell. But, if I die in your place, it will give you a chance to come to Christ. I beg you to give yourself to the One who laid down his life for you. Your Loving Brother.”
Shortly after he received the letter, he fell on his knees and gave himself to Christ. It’s wondrous for someone to lay down his life for his brother, or a friend. It is even more amazing for someone to lay down his life for a stranger. It is impossible to think that someone might lay down his life for an enemy.
“While we were yet sinners…”