Sean Murphy in Lansing, Michigan was a rather unusual young man. In 2009, he attempted to set a new Guinness world record and achieved some degree of fame. You may be surprised how.
As part of a promotional event for the pet store where he worked, Sean put sixteen Madagascar hissing cockroaches – in his mouth. Yes, 16! Yes, they were alive. Yes, they were big – over two inches long each. And, yes they were quite wiggly. A video (you can find it on YouTube if you can stand to watch it) shows Sean having to poke the nasty things back in as they tried to escape. I know; it makes me shudder just to think about it, too.
Maybe putting roaches in your mouth wouldn’t bother you. Most people, however, would find that more than just a little repulsive. We wouldn’t even consider it!
That’s why I share Sean’s story. If we can understand our own disgust for some things and preference for others, we can grasp an important bit of theology. Though we have attempted to define God as one who could not or should not make value judgments about people, one who is supposed to love and accept everyone, that’s not who he is.
Jesus, the one often cited as the greatest example of love and acceptance, says that there are limits to the borders of God’s kingdom. One of his parables is about fish caught in a dragnet. Once the net was hauled ashore, the fishermen “sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away” (Matthew 13:48).
Lest we miss the point of the parable, Jesus explained “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (13:49-50).
Some fish, like cockroaches, aren’t considered good to put in your mouth. So, they are thrown away. Jesus says some people aren’t good for God’s kingdom. They too, on that final day, will be thrown away.
Sin is to God like a cockroach is to me. Repulsive. Intolerable. Just as I couldn’t endure a cockroach in my mouth, God cannot tolerate sin. Because he loves us, he went to great lengths to allow us to get rid of our sin. While he loves sinners, he has never offered to accept sin.