The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. – Jeremiah 18:1-10
It is difficult to find anyone who is not pleased when God shows to them grace and mercy according to His sovereign will. We rejoice that God would see fit to make forgiveness available to us, knowing that our sin and rebellion merits only His righteous judgment. We celebrate when God reaches across time and space and touches a friend or loved one, breaking the chains of sin and setting them free into glorious, eternal life.
But what happens when God saves someone outside our circle of influence? Or, even worse, outside our circle of preference? How many times have we as faithful followers of Christ been shocked – or even offended – when someone who was formerly an outspoken enemy of God comes to saving faith in Christ Jesus? It is easy to hurl accusations that their conversion is not a true one, that somehow the greatness of their previous sin outweighs the redemptive, salvific power of the Cross.
The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah makes clear that He, as represented by the potter, has both ownership and authority over His creative material and its function. He has the right to form and reform the clay that comprises His creations however He sees fit and in accordance with the actions of the creature. Not only does the Lord possess the ownership and authority to do so, He alone is the One who is worthy to do so. He does not merely do right things; He is the right from which all rightness springs. He does not merely do that which is good; God is the very source of good, and therefore anything that comes from His person and His actions are likewise flawless. He is the only One who could possibly make the right choice every time, and He should be trusted to do so.
Why is it, then, that we often react petulantly like the brother of the Prodigal Son, who bristled over his father’s celebration at the return or his wayward sibling (Luke 15:11-32)? Why do we, like the servants hired in the early part of the day, moan and complain against the generosity of their Master who pays everyone the same wage (Matthew 20:1-16)?
Such reactions reinforce the truth that only God is able to judge in a way that is fair. When one repents, He gives grace. When another hardens, He disciplines. Our standards are inherently biased towards what is best for us, what brings us the greatest personal benefit and pleasure. When our perceived enemy is suddenly the recipient of God’s mercy resulting from their honest confession of and repentance from sin, we are appalled! Outraged! How could God be so unfair as to bless those who have cursed us? When the lens of others turns to us and asks the same questions, we joyfully shout, “I am a sinner saved by grace!”
Why would God not do for others what He has done for you? If He does not, He would hardly be just. And, if He does, who is the clay to question the Potter?
Lord, we thank You for Your mercy and grace toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We are grateful that You gave us the awareness of our sin, the humility to repent, and the enablement to believe. We rejoice that You save not only those whom we love, but those whom we perceive as our enemies. Mold us into vessels of Your grace, that we might radiate forth Your glory, righteousness, justice, and mercy, that those whom we consider enemies would be drawn into the family of God as surely as those we hold most dear. Transform hearts and souls from what appears to be broken and useless scraps into beautiful vessels of light, demonstrating Your might and authority as the Potter to do as You please with that which is Yours. Be glorified in all things and in all ways, in Jesus’ name.
Ministry Director, CU Vita (Cornell University)
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