My eldest daughter and I like to watch the TV show, Shark Tank. She loves seeing all the new business ideas and the negotiations. We enjoy watching entrepreneurs and business owners pitch their ideas and fight for a good investment.
On one episode, the mild-mannered Shark, Robert Herjavec , makes a profound statement. It takes place during a negotiation with a potential partner, who is driving a hard deal.
Robert looks at his potential business partner with a serious gaze and says firmly, “Do not mistake my kindness for weakness.”
I remember how I felt when I heard him say that. It reminded me of the following verse in Romans 2:4:
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4 (ESV)
In this passage, the Apostle Paul is speaking to those who know God’s truth but are still running away and doing the opposite. These people are making a dire mistake: they presume that God’s kindness is a sign of weakness—which in reality is anything but! In fact, Paul goes on to speak of the impending wrath of God, which awaits those who do not turn from their sin and look to Jesus.
This verse demonstrates that the intended purpose of God’s kindness is to bring about a changed mind—repentance. Paul is saying that it is not primarily fear of God’s wrath that motivates us to repent; instead it is the power of God’s kindness. His wrath certainly awaits those who do not repent, but we already deserve His wrath, and in His kindness He leads us out of His wrath.
If you or someone you love is running away from Jesus, understand that the temporary comfort that comes from believing that God is okay with it is not the truth. His patience and kindness are an invitation for you—or for that person—to turn from those things and return to Him.
Those of us in preaching and teaching roles may feel tempted to ‘take sides’ when considering the wrath and the kindness of God. But in reality, we cannot have one without the other. If we are not growing in our understanding of the gravity of the wrath of God, then we cannot truly comprehend or experience the kindness of God.
We need to understand that the brokenness, despair, and pain in this life are evidences of the eternal consequences for our sin. Until we understand that, we cannot live with humility and awe of the profound gift of God’s grace given to us by His Son, Jesus.
Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that we wouldn’t have to face God’s punishment, but instead we can receive and enjoy Him. He saves us so that we can experience the unashamed love and grace that he purchased for us on the cross.
We all take God’s kindness for granted or functionally treat it as weakness. We are prone to wander. We are given to self-pleasure. We are easily confused about what we have been rescued from and whom we are being rescued to (see Ephesians 2:1-10).
My prayer is that we would reflect increasingly more on the love, grace, forgiveness, patience, and kindness of our God. By doing so, may he reveal to us areas of unbelief, that we might think more rightly of him and of ourselves in light of his grace.
His wrath is deserved, but his kindness is wooing us to repentance. Let’s walk in response to that great grace!