Why hasn’t God sent me to Hell already?
Johnny was a lonely nine year old boy that had no friends and none of the boys in the neighborhood ever asked him to play. Every day he would walk the short mile to school, and on this particular day his mother had told him, “Johnny, this afternoon you hurry home from school, no lollygagging, come straight home!” He said, “Yes, Ma’am”, and with a goodbye kiss raced out the door.
That afternoon when Johnny left school, as he had done many times before, he passed by the make-shift ball field where the other boys played baseball. However, on this day, for the first time ever he heard the boys yelling “Johnny!”, they said, “Johnny, come play, we’re a man short and need someone else to play.” Johnny replied, “I have no glove”, to which they replied, “No problem, you can use one of ours!” Eagerly Johnny dropped his books, ran onto the field and for the first time, began to play with the other boys. For several minutes he played and laughed and had a great time, then suddenly, he recalled his mother had given him specific instructions to come directly home following school. Instantly, Johnny dropped his glove, ran off the field to grab his books and start down the sidewalk home.
Just then, an increasingly loud siren ascended behind Johnny! As he turned to look, he saw two fire trucks coming down the street, passing him and turning into a side street just ahead of where he now stood wide-eyed.
Without hesitation, in a seamlessly natural response, Johnny bolted across the street and was in pursuit of those fire trucks. They had stopped just in sight and as he got closer he could see the firemen running around with fire hose, spraying water onto a huge blaze. A fire had engulfed a two story house, flames were shooting skyward in upwards of one hundred feet! Johnny had never seen anything like this, it seemed everyone was out on the street staring at the fire and the bustling firemen! In the warmth and glow of the fire before him, his mother’s instruction to come straight home after school echoed in his mind. Speedily, he turned and began running home.
Down the sidewalk, into the yard, up the steps and through the front door he sprinted! His mother met him with worry in her eyes, but Johnny was so excited he could barely communicate his joy! As he began telling his mother about the experiences, she interrupted with “Johnny, where have you been, I told you to come straight home after school!” Johnny replied, “I know, but mamma, the boys asked me to play ball with them and they have never asked me to play ball with them before… and, mamma I saw a fire truck and big fire, the fireman were spraying water on the fire and climbing the ladder to the roof… mamma, you should have seen all the people….” His mother interjecting, said, “Johnny, I had asked you to come straight home, no go into the kitchen and sit down at the table!”
Johnny slumped his shoulders and walked into the kitchen, sat down at the table. For the first time that afternoon he had realized that he did not do what was asked of him. He knew his mother had told him to come straight home, but he had disobeyed her. He was so excited about the fire trucks and getting to play ball with the other boys. Even though he knew he had disappointed his mother, he was still very excited about all that he had done and seen on his way home from school!
His mother, rhetorically asked again, “do you remember, I told you to hurry home after school today?” She said, as she opened the freezer, “some of the ladies from my Sunday school class came by this afternoon.” Reaching in and pulling out a bowl of ice cream piled high with strawberries! She told him, “this is why I wanted you to hurry home, the ladies brought strawberries and ice cream for our social, but I saved mine for you.”
Wow! Being a parent myself, I remember well all the times I have been on both sides of this story. And today, what jumps off the page is the realization that Johnny did not get what he deserved! He disobeyed his mother, he did not do what he was told to do that afternoon. What he deserved, was a spanking! Something that would make him think about what he had done and hopefully cause remembrance the next time he was tempted to disobey. Instead, not only did he get out of a spanking, he got strawberries and ice cream! What is that? He didn’t deserve that!
Hmmmmm, this story demonstrates unequivocally the differences between mercy and grace. Johnny deserved a spanking, yet she choose not to spank him, that’s mercy. He didn’t get what he so rightly deserved. Moreover, his mother gave him strawberries and ice cream, something he did not deserve at all!
In all, Johnny did not get what he deserved and what he did not deserve, he got! He got mercy, then he received grace.
Perhaps, something in the morale of the story above answers the question I ask myself every day, why hasn’t God sent me to Hell already?