Can God Count? A Children’s Story for Sinners

countingThe boy counted everything. Socks in his drawer, peas on his plate, cars on the highway. He loved numbers. He loved to count.

One day he asked his father, ”Daddy, can God count?”
His father said, ”Yes, son, God can count.”
The son asked, ”What does he count?”
The father replied, ”He counts the hairs on our heads.”
”Every hair?” the son asked.
”Yes, every hair,” the father answered.

The son asked, ”What else does God count?”
The father said, ”When we get sad, or hurt, and we cry, God counts our tears.”
”Every tear?” the son asked.
”Yes, every tear,” the father answered.

The son thought a minute. Then he asked, ”Is there anything God doesn’t count?”
The father said, ”Yes, there is one thing God does not count.”
The son asked, ”What does he not count?”
The father took his son’s hand and led him down the hall. He pointed to the family’s crucifix that hung on the wall. The father said to his son, ”On the day Jesus died, God stopped counting our sins. He added them all up and gave them to Jesus. He will never count them again.”
”Every sin?” the son asked.
”Yes, every single one,” the father answered.

”God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” 2 Cor 5:19.

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10 thoughts on “Can God Count? A Children’s Story for Sinners

  1. Oscar T. Cope on said:

    Great job, Chad, on “Can God Count?” What a neat story, and not only
    for children!

  2. Thank you, Oscar!

  3. A sweet story.
    Unfortunately, it’s heresy!
    What do we tell that little boy when it comes time for his First Confession?
    God does count sins that are unrepented and unconfessed.
    It’s the sins that are repented and confessed to which He applies the divine amnesia, courtesy of the Blood that was “poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”.
    Not an unimportant distinction.
    Partial truths are often more harmful than total falsehoods.
    Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade!

    • Thank you for the comment, Edward. The light that illumines all Scripture is that of the distinction between law and Gospel. The law says, “You are a sinner. You have sinned. You have broken God’s commandments. And you deserve punishment for your sins.” This law always accuses. The Gospel, on the other hands, says, “Christ has become your sin. It is not yours anymore. Christ kept all the commandments for you. And the punishment you deserve, He took upon Himself.” The Gospel always justifies.

      This story is the Gospel. To tell the little boy that God counts his sins that are unrepented and unconfessed is to destroy the Gospel.

      When I write a story about the law, however, I can use some of your words.

      There is no more important distinction in the Bible than that of the law and Gospel. Without it, we truly end up in heresy.

  4. Chad,

    Your story brings to mind God’s truth of Psalm 103:10-13

    “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”

    Great stuff, keep it up.

  5. Thank you for this. Such a simple little story, with so much truth. I needed this reminder!

  6. Hmmm. Lutheran Minister Rev. Bird wrote: “On the day Jesus died, God stopped counting our sins. He added them up and gave them all to Jesus. He will never count them again.” Rev. Connolly, a Catholic priest, objected: “Unfortunately, it’s heresy! . . . .God DOES count sins that are unrepented and unconfessed.”
    Conceivably that child could walk away saying “Great! I accept and love Jesus. This means I’m going to heaven no matter what I do.” Later in life that child may have that view affirmed by reading Luther’s “Sin Boldly” letter, which includes these words: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.” This is from the “unsanitized” version of Luther’s letter to Malanchthon: http://onecanhappen.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/martin-luther-sin-boldly-%E2%80%94-no-sin-can-separate-us-from-him-even-if-we-were-to-kill-or-commit-adultery-thousands-of-times-each-day/
    Rev. Connolly’s response is consistent with the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed.: “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’” Par. 1035. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm.
    Rev. Bird’s view is inviting; no repentance (and no need for firm resolve to sin no more, as required for forgiveness in Catholic sacramental Confession). However, in contrast to Rev. Bird’s view, Par1035 is backed by the “Great Commission” that the risen Jesus, in forming his ONE Church, gave ONLY to the 11 (Mt 28:16-20). In saying, “I will be with you ALWAYS . . . .” Jesus extended that commission to their successors, including the Pope and Catholic bishops today.
    We’re free, of course, to follow Luther or the other “No Popery!” Protestant reformers. As for me, I’ll continue to try my best to live as a Catholic. I don’t want to risk being surprised at my judgment, unrepentant of mortal sin, by Christ saying, “You read my words in the last verses of Matthew’s Gospel but chose to ignore them. Depart from me . . . .”

    • AJ Hamilton on said:

      Dear Jerome:

      Rev. Bird’s view does not exclude repentance. He simply ascribes no merit to it.
      All the merit belongs to Jesus.

      When Christians experience sorrow over their sin–because God works it in them–they look to Christ, like leprous beggars without any merit or worthiness of their own. They are like the children of Israel, snake bit and fevered, looking at the Serpent on the pole, with nothing at all except a promise from God.

      In that light, you and I are being taught repentance in this lovely little story by being directed outside of ourselves to Jesus.

      By contrast, if you ascribe merit to repentance, you make it a work you perform (rather than something God does in you by His Words.) If you think it’s a work you perform, then you must do it, perfectly, without fail.

      How could I ever know if I had sorrowed over ALL my sins?
      How could I ever know if I were rightly sorry, or sorry enough?
      How could I ever be sure of having confessed them all, from a right heart?
      How could I ever know if God were pleased with my sorrowing, or if they weren’t the regretful tears of an Esau, or the faithless tears of a Judas?

      To put it another way, do you think that *continuing to *try to *live your best as a Roman Catholic isn’t *risky?

      But when God speaks, with His words He takes us up in the tears, sorrows and anguish of Jesus, which He endured over our sins. He takes us into His death for them. He gives a share in His Risen life in exchange for them. And He leaves no doubt.

      For my part, I thank you Chad for writing as you do.

      AJH, Evangelical Catholic.

      • Thanks AJ; your love for our Lord is evident in your thoughtful reply, as is that of Rev. Bird. Born into a wonderful Catholic family and raised accordingly, my wake-up call came when our older daughter, majoring in biology at a secular university said: “Dad, you just can’t say that Jesus is any more important than any of the other founders of the great religions.” That prompted research that resulted in my book “The 7-Step Reason to be Catholic, 2nd Ed.: Science the Bible and History point to Catholicism.” The steps are listed on my website,
        http://7stepcatholic.org, The 7-step message is conveyed, simply, in two free MP3s: 4-minute “Come to Mas with me!” for Christians, and 20-minute “Why be Catholic, Dad?” for everyone else, including atheists and non-Christian believers, as you’ll see if you wish to go there. In response to your reply, please consider the last four steps: 4. Jesus founded only one Church. 5. Jesus commissioned only the eleven. 6. Their successors? Catholic bishops. 7. There is no biblical escape clause.
        God bless!
        Jerome

  7. Dear Chad and AJ:
    First of all, true confessions: When I commented on Chad’s blog, I was under the impression that Chad was a Catholic layman. Don’t ask me why I thought this. I simply did, and I was mistaken. I responded because I felt a kind of duty to admonish my fellow Catholic for what seemed to me to be “heresy”. I was interested in the purity of Catholic soteriology: grace and repentance and merit and such matters. When I read Chad’s response to my response, it dawned on me that Chad is a Lutheran pastor! Had I known that, I would not have taken the time to respond to his blog. I would simply have said to myself, “What’s the point? At my advanced age, I have better things to do with my time than to engage in the incessant Catholic – Lutheran polemics about grace and salvation and such matters.”
    But now, alas, I’ve started something! Jerome (a Catholic) has rallied to my side. A. J. Hamilton (a Lutheran, I presume) defends Chad. All four of us have been courteous, thanks be to God. I intend to make this my final entry on the matter, after which I shall have some ginger ale and a cookie and go to bed!
    So, mostly in response to A. J. Hamilton, I want to deal with the concept of “merit”. A. J. introduces the word “merit”. That word raises the ante. It is a word that seems to make Lutherans nervous, whereas we Catholics tend to be comfortable with it. “Merit” is inseparably connected with justice and the whole process of being justified in the eyes of God. It is my belief, based on sound Catholic theology, that I was justified when I was two weeks old. This justification came to me in the sacrament of Baptism. Obviously, I had not done anything to earn this justification. I did not merit it. It was pure and absolute grace. But Someone did merit it for me. That “Someone” was Jesus. Were not that Right Man on my side, my striving would be losing! Jesus gets 100% of the credit for meriting for me the immense privilege of justification. In Baptism, I received simultaneously the gift of sanctification. But I did not receive the gift of immunity from the possibility of committing sin and losing all or some of my sanctification. Over the past 76 years, I have, indeed, sinned. (The exact nature of the sinning is between me and God and my confessor.) Therefore, I need to repent. Now, here is where it gets sticky! So, rather than trust my own words, I cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the sake of precision.

    “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.”
    [CCC Paragraph #2008]

    I am happy to say that, by God’s grace — and not without it — I have repented of whatever sins I have committed in my life and, with God’s help — and not without it — intend to continue to live for the rest of my life in a state of repentance for whatever sins I might commit in the future.
    But notice, please — and this is my fundamental objection to Chad’s touching story about the little boy and his father and the crucifix: My own free will is not short circuited by the merit of Jesus Christ on my behalf. Grace precedes my free will. Grace follows up on my free will. But Grace does not replace my free will. There is a certain mysterious point in the whole process of my salvation where God says, “Dear child, I have done and shall do whatever is necessary to bring about your salvation but I leave you free to make the crucial decision to accept Me or to reject Me. I cannot compel you without destroying your free will, and I will not destroy that in you that makes you truly human.”
    And then, in the deep recesses of my being, I need to decide. No one, not even God, can decide for me.
    Analogy: Persons addicted to cocaine can get all the help they need, and even more than they need, both before they go into detox and after they complete detox, but that crucial decision to go into detox is a decision that no parent or spouse or friend can make for them.
    If I die repentant, God will not count my sins.
    If otherwise, He will count them.
    My justification is a done deed, but my salvation is a work in progress.
    Pardon the cliche, but we Catholics are taught not to count our chickens before they’re hatched.
    That has always made sense to me.
    That’s what I am trying to say.
    Forgive my wordiness, but I’m finished now.

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