Is God reluctant? Does He hold back with His saving grace? That’s sometimes how it might feel. If you’re a Christian of any substance, you invariably want others to come to know God the Saviour. But why isn’t the front door of the Church being beaten down with folk clamouring to get inside the sanctuary? Is it because God doesn’t want to save many people? It can be quite natural for us to accuse God in this way.
Jerram Barrs, professor at Covenant Seminary, holds us to account for thinking in such a way:
The impression we sometimes give with such questions is that we care more about people than God does, that we would do anything to make sure lost people are saved, whereas God is too laid-back about the whole problem of the destiny of unbelievers. It is as if we think we are eager to save people, but God is reluctant. (page 83)
Does that sound like a familiar attitude? I have felt that way myself. Why doesn’t God just do it? But like all accusations directed at God (spitting at the sky, as Calvin called it) the charge falls back upon us:
If we gaze honestly into our own individual hearts, we find a similar reluctance. We may protest about God’s fairness and lack of eagerness to save, but what are we doing? How much self-sacrificing love, how much time and energy, how much true zeal do we pour into the effort to help unbelievers come to know the truth about Jesus Christ? (page 84)
Then he really turns the screw and pins the reluctance right back upon God’s accusers – us!
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are always working to seek and save those who are lost. We, like Peter, reluctant, unwilling, protesting, are dragged into serving God in the work that He calls us to do. (page 95)
God is eager. We are the foot-draggers. You might be inclined to think Dr Barrs a little harsh for challenging us so. But when you consider his kind tone and gentle manner, his challenge becomes one filled with grace.
* both quotes from Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism, chapters 14-15.