I want to tell the story of two of my best friends. Both died a few years ago and I remember them with great fondness. Because these were real people, and their families are still around, I won't use their real names. One of my friends was named "Larry". He was a true "southern gentleman", well-mannered, polite, hard-working, and an excellent musician. I was 20 years old when I met him. Being his lead guitar player was my first "professional" gig. I still remember running down the highway with my Gretsch guitar in the case, trying to meet him at the proper place and time after getting stuck trying to turn around. Well, I caught him, auditioned and got the job. I worked with "Larry" 2 or 3 years in clubs and bars, 'til Christ exercised His power and I began to serve Him in the early '70's. I finished my contract with Larry and the club after 2 or 3 months, and told him with tears how I just couldn't do it anymore. He was devastated but put his arm around me nodding that he understood. We remained friends for years, and I would occasionally play with him for old time's sake, though without heart. He would bring his fiddle out to our Gospel Sings if I asked and knew many of the old Gospel songs. He was truly like a father to me. I wanted so bad to know Larry was in Christ, that he had trusted Jesus too, but I never got that assurance. I drove to see him in his later years as he was dying, but was never able to point-blank ask him if he knew Christ. His oldest daughter became really angry the last time I saw him. I'm sure the insinuation that her dying father was not acceptable to God without Christ infuriated her. I miss him still.
My other friend was named "Carl". I was 20, and he was 40 or so when we met. He was not musical, had few positive traits, and worked so little that his middle-aged wife had to basically support them. He liked cowboys, beer and pornography. A lot of porn. Back in those days before Christ I liked the same things. After he died we discovered he was a child molester too. In his later years he developed heart problems and he and his wife moved near my wife and I. In the last month or so of his life he and I had two or three small bible studies in my back room. We bowed our heads together as he recited the sinners prayer with me. Shortly he was in a local hospital and we went to see him. As we came down the hall we met his doctors. "Carl" was on a gurney, seemingly unconscious, with an I.V. drip and an oxygen mask over his face. I bowed low and whispered into his ear, repeating the bible verse we'd read together just a couple of weeks earlier . . "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). To my surprise he squeezed my hand. That was the last time I saw him. I pray that I will see both of my friends again. One was a conscientious, morally upright man, hard-working, honest, but I never knew where he stood. The other was a dissolute pervert who placed his faith in Christ at the gates of Hell, the only hope he had of getting within a trillion miles of heaven's gates. Jesus said this also: "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" God doesn't think the way we do. Is it fair for "Carl" to gain heaven? No. "Larry"? Nope. Before the judgement seat of God we will not plead for justice, but mercy. Rest assured the mercy God grants to those who trust Christ is also just. In Christ we were put to death for our sins, and cannot be punished twice,
There may be some looking from the outside who think my life has been like Larry's, but I assure you that it is more like "Carl's". And but for the grace of God, so is yours. You just don't know it yet. It is true that we are sinners because of what we do, but we do what we do because of what we are. He who is forgiven much, loves much. But he who is forgiven little ...