I was looking at Derby’s City Library website today when I saw that they’re currently holding a “Fines Amnesty” between 1st July and 11th July. This is what they have to say:
Visit a Derby City Library and we will waive any fines that you owe us.
Reading is very important – everything begins with reading – and we want as many people in Derby as possible to use their library service.
Look at the reasoning – they want as many people as possible in Derby to use their library service. So they are removing one of the obstacles that may have kept people away, the late fees that were still on their account and would need paying the next time they wanted to use the libraries’ facilities.
Let’s have a look at 2 Corinthians 5:19-21:
…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Right now, at this very moment in history, we are in a time of God’s amnesty. Just like Derby’s libraries, God is not currently holding the sins of the world against it. Just like Derby’s libraries, He is instead wanting everyone who will come to come to Him, be reconnected to Him, and become the righteousness of God in Christ.
Just like Derby’s libraries attitude to those who stay away for fear of having to pay late fees, God is not angry with the world, poised on the edge of His seat, waiting for the time He can vent His rage and have His vengance. He is sending us out as His ministers of reconciliation, calling people to the hope that we can come to God, free of the fear of judgement, and be reconciled to Him.
The only thing keeping the people of Derby from having their late fees cancelled is not going to the library to take advantage of the offer. Some may not even know about it, since I’ve only found out about it randomly. Likewise, the only thing keeping people from receiving forgiveness and becoming the righteousness of God in Christ is coming to Him and saying “I’m laying down my arms, and claiming the benefits of the amnesty you’re offering!” This kindness and grace of God will then lead people to repentance and a renewed lifestyle as they marvel in the wonder of what He has done (Romans 2:4; Titus 2:11).
Just like Derby’s libraries, this amnesty has a sell-by date attached to it. If someone goes into the library on 12th July and says “I’m here to have my fees cancelled”, they’ll be told that they are sadly too late and must pay what was outstanding on their account after all.
There is coming a day when Jesus will return, and this will end the period of God’s amnesty. Anyone who comes to God now can experience the free grace of God, but once Jesus has returned, anyone who stands before God without having claimed this amnesty for themselves will have to pay what was outstanding on their account before the amnesty opened.
But God isn’t eager for this day to come. His attitude is still that of Exekiel 18:23 – “I take no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. I would rather that they repent and live!” He isn’t being held back from judging now by some external force that is frustrating His desire for vengance. No, His love, His compassion and His grace is leading Him to put that day off, so that people have more time to repent and find forgiveness and life in Him (2 Peter 3:9).
So, minister of reconciliation – go out and reconcile! Don’t hold people’s sins against them, because God isn’t currently doing that. Go out, befriend, show God’s love and grace, show the fruits of the freedom He was won for you by loving Jesus so much that He comes out of every pore. And let His Spirit lead you in reconciling others to Him, so that they too can benefit from the grace of God and come into the same glorious fellowship with God that is now ours by grace through faith!