“Do Bad Guys Go to Heaven?”
~ For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7) ~
Lately Simon seems to be preoccupied with ‘bad guys’. He talks about fighting the bad guys with a sword and shield one moment and then is a good ninja fighting the bad guy ninjas. As parents we strictly monitor our children’s screen time, allowing only 30 minutes of supervised computer time and about 2 hours of television per week. We even filter many of the animated movies because they aren’t age appropriate. Despite our best attempts to limit the exposure of our kids to the ‘bad guys ‘of the world, they still manage to be part of their imaginative play. After one of his serious battles with the bad guy ninjas, I started to get Simon ready for bed. As usual, he was all fired up. While I got him ready for bed, he regaled me with stories of how he fought off the ‘bad guys’. I finally managed to get him to bed and read him a bible story, David and Goliath – a classic good guy vs. bad guy bible story. At the end of the story, Simon asked me “Do bad guys go to heaven?”
What a great question! While I did not pull out my bible and turn to Titus 3:3-7 to answer my son, I did use it as a guideline for my answer. We are all ‘bad guys’ as we have all sinned and fallen short of what God had intended for us. To refer to ourselves as the ‘bad guy’ is uncomfortable. Many times when we are confronted with the bad things that we do, we deflect and deny our actions. We love to point the finger and say, “At least I am not as bad as __________”. The bible is full of examples of righteous people who have sinned. Jonah was instructed to go and minister to the people in Nineveh. He disobeyed and went the other way. Paul himself persecuted and murdered Christians in the early church. Yet they repented and God did wonderful things through them. Jonah’s message led the people of Nineveh to repentance, ultimately saving their lives. Paul, through his dramatic conversion and repentance, brought the Good News to the Gentiles, bringing us salvation through Jesus. Paul clearly illustrates this in his letter to Titus. Everyone is a ‘bad guy’. We all follow what feels good or do what we want, often without thinking about the consequences or with the goal of hurting others. But through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can become one of the ‘good guys’. Christ took on our sins and paid for them all. Not because of anything we did, but because he loved us and because of that love we are forgiven. In a very real sense, God declares us good guys.
The difficulty for me was to explain this concept in language that my six-year-old son could understand. “What’s a bad guy, Simon?” I asked. He explained that a bad guy was someone who does bad things to hurt someone. I then asked, “Who are some bad guys you know?” Scar from “Lion King” and Goliath from the bible were the two examples he gave. “Have you done anything to hurt anyone?” “Yeah. I hit Sophie once,” he said. “Does that make you a ‘bad guy’?” “No, because I said sorry later and Sophie said she forgave me,” he said emphatically. I couldn’t have asked for a better lead into what I wanted to say. I explained to him that we all do bad things. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross so that the bad things we do can be forgiven. Simon made the connection. “So bad guys can go to heaven if they ask God to forgive them?” he asked. Yes, even bad guys can go to heaven if they are truly repentant in their hearts and ask for God’s forgiveness.