by David Sisler
If you had been rating him on his personality, you would have given Tony a 10. Bright, witty, knowledgeable, caring, understanding. Being with him made you feel good about yourself, because Tony always noticed something positive. Whether it was a new hair style or a new outfit, Tony would give you a sincere compliment.
If you wanted a friendly ear, he was always willing to listen. A man with a tender heart, he was easily moved by the pain he observed in his friends.
You would have given Tony a 10 for his appearance. His dark eyes always sparkled. His wavy brown hair was so dark it was almost black. He had a smile that was positively infectious. Tall, dark, and handsome was a term invented to describe Tony.
You would also have rated Tony a 10 for his honesty. He didn't wear a sign advertising his life style. He fit none of the stereotypes. But if you asked, Tony would say, "Yes, I am a homosexual."
That honesty expressed itself in his religious expressions. He believed in God, but he declined to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
Tony said, "I want to accept Jesus, but I am not going to do it until I can live the life I know He will demand of me. I know I cannot continue to practice homosexuality if I am going to follow Jesus. But I am afraid of making a promise and then going back on my word. If I did ever go back on God I would be too embarrassed to ever start again."
Blanketing himself with failure before he ever began the adventure, Tony waited for what he called "the right time" to make a decision.
What would you say to a man who wanted to be delivered from a life style he knew violated God, but was afraid of the temptation he knew would confront him? What would you tell a man who wanted to trust God, but at the same time doubted God's willingness to forgive a sin a second time?
Manasseh was king of Judah. His father, Hezekiah, was one of the most devout kings to ever rule God's people. When Manasseh succeeded his father, he immediately overturned the worship of God, and instituted pagan ceremonies complete with human sacrifice. One of the burnt offerings was Manasseh's own son.
When Manasseh refused to repent, the Assyrians invaded Judah as God's punishment. The conquerors put a ring through Manasseh's nose and led him away as an animal. In captivity, he humbled himself in a way chains and bars never did. He cried out to God for mercy and was restored to his throne. He spent the next 55 years honoring God and died a testimony to forgiveness.
Simon Peter was one of the inner circle, the first among equals. The night before Jesus was crucified, Peter said, "Lord, if every other one of these men forsake you, I will not!"
Jesus said, "Peter, before the night is over, you will deny three times that you even know Me, let alone have ever followed Me." And Peter did deny Jesus, the third time punctuating his remarks with cursing and swearing.
Following His resurrection, Jesus three times asked Peter, "Do you love me?" After each positive affirmation from Peter, Jesus gave a recommission: "Feed my sheep." Peter was restored.
One man, Manasseh, an unbeliever, totally forgiven. One man, a believer, totally forgiven and restored. Do you suppose either man ever again struggled with temptation? I am confident they did. But trusting the grace of God more than their struggles, they made a commitment to live according to God's mercy.
Tony trusted his doubts and waited. When his body was tortured from AIDS-related complications, he said, "I have been a fool. Why would God want me now?" But God did want Tony, and He did welcome the repentance of a broken man.
What do you trust? Your doubts? Or God's forgiveness? If you cannot answer, "God's forgiveness," what are you waiting for?
Copyright 2002 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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