Sunday, October 11, 2009

God's Saving Grace is for Everyone

I cannot help but wonder what happened to Bob Cleveland in his life that made him behave as monstrously as he did. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. Was he the molested child who grew up to be a molester? Was he chemically unbalanced? A sociopath? What causes a man to harm individuals without any regard to the injury, or the injured? He knew right from wrong. He knew what he was doing was wrong. At the least, he knew what he was doing was wrong in society’s eyes. If he didn’t, he would not have worked so hard at convincing his victims that what we were doing was natural, that other people just didn’t understand, and because of that our actions must remain a secret. You can keep a secret, can’t you? You know, what’s wrong with a little oral sex between friends?

So, if you died you today and arrived in Heaven, and you looked over and saw Bob Cleveland, how would you feel? Happy? Relieved? Angry? Would you feel like the older brother of the prodigal son?

25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

Luke 15:25-31

From our perspective, Bob Cleveland was a monster who should have been locked away from society for the rest of his natural life. We are right to feel that way. He should have been locked in prison for the remainder of his natural life. We are right to protect all children from being harmed by a serial rapist like Bob Cleveland. The fact that our society has judges like Judge Wolfson, a judge who didn’t believe that a harsh prison sentence was a deterrent to sex crimes, and didn’t assign one, means that as a society, we have a lot of work to do. Protecting society from the Clevelands of the world must become a high priority.

If God cried for the sin visited upon a nine-year-old boy in a small apartment on Chicago’s north side, did He not cry that one of His children grew up to become the monster that Bob Cleveland became?

12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Matthew 18:12-14

Are we not all God’s children? Wasn’t Bob Cleveland one of God’s children? Wouldn’t God celebrate saving Bob Cleveland through Christ’s sacrifice just as much as the father celebrated the return of his wayward son, or the shepherd celebrated finding his lost sheep?

So, if you died today and saw Bob Cleveland in heaven, would you celebrate God’s awesome power to love?

I do not know what happened between 1978 and Mr. Cleveland’s death. I don’t know if he ever spent a single day in prison. I don’t know if he won his appeal or served his time. I don’t know if he stopped his awful behavior or if he continued it in his new life in Wisconsin. I know that at one point in his life he went to church. He knew who God is. He knew of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. What I do not know is whether or not Bob Cleveland reconciled himself with God.

Friday night, I heard someone suggest that Bob would get his in the end. No pun intended. God would judge. God would bring just punishment when Bob arrived at the pearly gates. It was a reflection of our strong desire for justice when an injustice has occurred. My initial unvoiced reaction was, “No.” What we should hope for is that God saved Bob Cleveland. We should hope that God found His wayward sheep. We should not wish for anyone an eternity in Hell. If Bob is spending his eternity separated from Christ, it is a loss. Do you want to be given your just punishment for your sins?

I think that this is a result of God’s saving Grace in my life.

I think it is the result of healing.


Brownie said...

You're right. We wouldn't want justice visited upon us. All sin - is sin. Some sins are horendous in our mortal eyes. All sin, however large or small, is sin against God.

I don't know that I could agree that Cleveland was a "child of God" who grew up to commit those acts.

We are born into sin and sinners we are - until that day we are "sinners saved by Grace." Until that day when we confess our sinful selves, accept the salvation that Christ freely gives, and turn to walk with Him.

Hopefully, Cleveland found the way to salvation. You're right, we don't want anyone to spend eternity apart from Christ.

And I agree: I don't want just punishment for my sins. I want God's mercy.

Kathleen said...

"I think that this is a result of God’s saving Grace in my life."

Amen. Obviously, God has and is doing a great work in your life through His grace. That is obvious by the attitude you express toward Bob. May He continue to give you His grace and healing.

CrossView said...

No doubt there were tears over Bob. God's heart had to have been broken over the damage that was done. And yes, it would be wonderful if Bob had given his heart and life to the Lord and been a changed man.

And if I saw Bob in Heaven, I would celebrate. That would mean that Bob didn't have a hardened heart.


Kellie said...

So, I was up this morning at 5am feeding JH, so I thought I'd catch up on all the blog reading I missed last week due to my hectic schedule. I thought, "I'll start with Arby's. I'm up for a light, amusing read. Plus I want to see if he addressed the shaped-burger issue."

Whoa. I don't really know what to say except that I'm sorry and saddened that this happened to you. This last post is absolutely beautiful, though. You have it exactly right. God's grace is sufficient....and very, very huge.

Thanks for sharing.

Linda said...

YOU are an amazing example of Grace. I want to believe that even Cleveland was saved. Isn't that what Jesus wants? Isn't that why He died? I want to believe.....

TobyBo said...

This post means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." Sin is not rated on a 1-10 scale. I am as much a wretch as Mr. Cleveland, and thankful for God's grace in my life. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me of the depths of God's grace and love.