1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NRSV)
Verse 12I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, Verse 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, Verse 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Verse 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the foremost. Verse 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. Verse 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
One of my favorite statements of faith, written by a confirmation student, ended with the summary, “I believe God is a God who gives us second chances. That’s a good thing because we all need second chances.” We hear a resounding “Amen!” to this understanding of God in the summary account in 1 Timothy of the conversion and transformation of Paul. Paul does not minimize or justify his past actions to enhance his credentials. Just the opposite: he calls himself the “foremost” of sinners. He has received the high calling to serve Jesus the Christ only because Jesus displayed “the utmost patience” in giving him mercy and grace.
This is the Good News repeated in our readings this week. God demonstrates persistent patience and grace with the Chosen people in the wilderness, with the sin-haunted David, with the tax collectors and sinners dining with Jesus, and with Paul. Our patient God extends the same persistent patience and grace to you and me too, repeatedly giving us second chances.
Patient God, many of us have used up so many second chances we wonder if you’ll run out of patience with us. Thank you for your reminders this week of your overflowing and persistent grace given even to sinners like us. Amen.