“Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out . . .” –Acts 3:19

We watched Will Smith’s movie “Seven Pounds” last night on DVD.  I suppose it was only a coincidence that my sermon title this week is “The God of Second Chances”.

 

Will Smith in "Seven Pounds"

Will Smith in "Seven Pounds"

In the movie, Smith plays a man responsible for a terrible accident in which seven people die, but he survives unscathed.  (One of my worst fears, by the way–may God be merciful enough to only let me die when I do something stupid.)  Smith begins to methodically plot his suicide, choosing the potential recipients of his organs based on whether or not they are good people.

 

I actually liked the movie, even if I disagree violently with the theology.  I ached for  Smith’s character, with no apparent knowledge of a God who forgives even when we’re unable to forgive ourselves.   And I ache for a world that dispenses mercy only to the “deserving”, only to those who prove themselves worthy.

It’s important to know the background behind Acts 3.  Peter seems to come down hard  on the crowd  for their participation in Jesus’s death. Some called for Jesus to be crucified.  Many more, probably, were good people who did nothing.  Good people who decided not to get involved.  

But the real reason Peter’s sermon has impact is because he bears a greater burden for Jesus’s death than they do.  They acted out of ignorance, he tells them, unaware that Jesus is the Son of God who fulfills the prophecy of the Messiah.  But Peter?  Peter knew Jesus.  Broke bread with him every day.  Personally heard his teaching.  Swore he’d defend him–right up to the time the soldiers drew their swords to arrest Jesus.  Then he and the other disciples fled like scared puppies.  Peter denied knowing Jesus–three times.

But God came back for Peter.  Peter didn’t deserve a second chance.  Turning your back on the Son of God is pretty unforgivable. (And don’t forget the Apostle Paul’s second chance, who, in a former life took great pride in persecuting Christians.)

The world might demand a pound of flesh in exchange for our wrongs.  Jesus offered all of his flesh on behalf of the wrongs we’ve wrought. God doesn’t show up to condemn anyone–God only shows up to offer us a second chance.

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