God tells us that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their evil ways to Him. For the past months we in New Zealand have been publicly made aware of the imminent death of Sir Paul Holmes, a broadcaster and interview host. His deteriorating health, his accomplishments, his family relationships--all have been played out in the public eye. Deliberately. Sir Paul, is--and always has been--a showman.
That's all fine. Today a newspaper published his final thoughts--sort of the modern version of deathbed reflections and confessions of the famous--a well known historical genre. We read this:
In an emotional interview with TVNZ's Sunday programme last night, the veteran broadcaster revealed his innermost fears and reflections as his life draws to a close. He admitted death was a scary prospect, but said he had made peace with all he needed to. "I'm a bit frightened, but I plan to increase my peace with God," he said in the interview aired last night. "I'm worried about what's over the hill. I don't know what there is.""I plan to increase my peace with God." Striking expression. What does he mean?
We believe in death-bed repentance, confessions and conversions. It pleases God to call whomever He will, when and where he chooses. For some it is on the road to Damascus bearing thither a heart filled with bitter anger and murderous intent. For others it is amidst excruciating pain whilst racked on a Roman cross.
Throughout his professional, public life Paul Holmes has mocked Christians, sneering at their "narrow mindedness", mocking their (to him) simplistic credulity, their failure to conform to the dictates of modern "scientific" reasonableness, and so forth. If a Christian publicly criticized abortion or homosexuality the audience was treated to Holmes's wrinkled lip and sneer of cold disdain poured forth upon the miserable miscreant currently before him.
To us, as Christians, it's not personal. That's what pagans do. They hated the Lord Jesus Christ. His followers they must also hate. We extend our free forgiveness to Sir Paul and those who follow in his train. We are content to leave their judgement to the Judge of the heavens and the earth, Who tries the thoughts and intents of every heart. We Christians have already been judged. Our judgement has been certain, final, and deadly--and has been already exacted upon the One Name fully and finally. We are forgiven because He was condemned.
But now Sir Paul tells us he is planning to "increase his peace with God". One has the uneasy impression that he is preparing to meet God as if he were preparing for an interview. Only now the interviewer is about to be God; the interviewee is to be Sir Paul. Finally the tables are turned. Knowing that he will have to "spit out all the butt ends of his days and ways" he is polishing up his apologia, his arguments, his extenuations--in a word--his case. One fears he is doing his research through his memories, aligning his evidences. One fears that he is approaching this with his trademark, cheeky laddishness, ready to try out the odd flippant remark or joke to get a laugh out of Almighty God.
We hope not. All Unbelievers, when they contemplate the Judgment to come, operate a version of the "scales" model--believing that all they need do is demonstrate enough moral worth and achievement to outweigh any evil they may have done. To see the scales tip ever so slightly in their favour. The Scriptures will have none of it. God has already declared to us the uselessness of such thinking. God's holiness is infinite; it is absolute. He is not a mere creature with which to bargain. To fall short, to miss the mark in one thing is to become guilty in all. James says, "for whoever observes the whole law, but slips in one point, becomes guilty in every respect." (James 2:10). These words are God-breathed; they are literally God's words. When One is so holy, so pure, exacting, so infinitely intolerant of sin the "scales" model of judgment is an insult, a blasphemy.
We hope that Sir Paul is seeking God in repentance, not negotiation; in submission, not haggling; trusting in the mercy of Christ, not false balance weights.