Over the last couple of days, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with people commenting on the final hours of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (the convicted drug dealers executed in Indonesia on April 29). In particular, what seems to have caught people’s attention the most is that Chan and Sukumaran went to their deaths praising God, maybe even looking forward to meeting their Maker.
The response to this has provided a fascinating contrast. My Christian friends have celebrated the fact that these men embraced the hope and forgiveness offered by the Christian message about Jesus, even singing Amazing Grace and 10,000 Reasons in their final moments. But for some of my non-Christian friends, these reports obviously seemed strange – perhaps even perverse. I mean, how could anyone be hopeful, how could anyone sing, in the face of such a horrible death? And why would these men, of all people – convicted drug dealers, the scum of the earth – be looking forward to meeting their Maker?
Let’s be honest: it’s bizarre. People who find these reports strange are right. Because the way in which Chan and Sukumaran reportedly faced their deaths confronts us with the scandal of grace.
As Christians, we can become way too complacent about this idea. Oh yes, God forgives us, no matter what we’ve done. Jesus died for us – God is merciful. What’s on TV tonight? But the reason Christians are celebrating these reports, while non-Christians find them at best quaint, or at worst very strange or even wrong, is that grace (properly understood) is an utterly scandalous concept – even, in some ways, an offensive one. How can Christians become complacent about such a revolutionary concept, one that should smack us over the head like a two-by-four every day? How can we be complacent about the idea that the God of the Universe has, at great cost to himself, made it possible for flawed, selfish, evil people like Chan and Sukumaran – and like me – to spend eternity living at peace with him?
As far as I can tell, no one is disputing that these two men were drug dealers – fully aware of what they were doing, willingly taking part in something that ruins lives and is a scourge on societies everywhere. Yet today, right now, Andrew and Myuran are in paradise with the perfect, holy, just Ruler of the Universe (Luke 23:42-43). How is that fair?
That’s the point. It’s not fair. Not even close. That’s the scandal of grace.
Christians are people who have come to recognize that the scandal isn’t reserved for convicted drug dealers. It’s a scandal that extends to all of us – rebels at heart who live to please ourselves and who reject the God who made us and sustains us, yet who can freely experience his grace and mercy by turning to Jesus in trust and repentance. When we celebrate Chan and Sukumaran meeting God as forgiven sinners, what we’re really celebrating is our own hope.
So to all my non-Christian friends who see Christians celebrating the way in which these two men died and wonder what kind of strange belief system you’re witnessing here, I would say one thing: You’re right, and I’m glad you’re paying attention. Maybe now you’re one step closer to getting it.