Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mercy, Grace, Love

Well, I was planning on doing a post on the Trinity or Godhead, depending on your term of preference. However, after last night and what I dealt with whilst trying to go to sleep, I've decided to do it on forgiveness instead, and do the Godhead another day. So here goes. I will be confining my discussion to a few well known examples of times where God was merciful to individuals in spite of major transgressions.

In the scriptures we read of several converging themes that deal with mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We begin with Adam and Eve falling in the Garden. In that record, we don't find where God forgave the snake, or the devil that worked through it. We do read, however, of Adam and Eve being forgiven, yet punished, for their actions. An animal (or 2) was killed to provide the blood required by God's judgement. God cannot lie, and He had said they would die in the day that they ate of the tree. Because of His righteousness, there had to be atonement, and the only way was for something to die. Adam and Eve were not let completely off the hook though. They subsequently were separated from the presence of God, and forced to live outside the blessing and love that they were designed to enjoy. As well, they were condemned to a physical death, rather than immortality. Yet we still see the mercy and love of God when while He is judging them, He provides a promise of a way that He will bring man back to the place where we are supposed to exist.

Next in our journey, we read of Moses. This is a man that would have experiences with God that no other human in the course of history would ever be able to experience. He is spoken to by a burning bush, he proves God is bigger than Pharaoh, he has, arguably, the most awe-inspiring experience a person can have while he is on mount Sinai, he sees more of God than any other person has and lived, and he witnesses the awesome power of God in His dealings with the children of Israel. But then, in a singularly uncommon mood caused by frustration with the murmuring and complaining of God's people, he strikes the rock twice. For this transgression against God, he is condemned to never enter the promised land while he lives. He gets to see the children of Israel come to the Jordan river twice, but is left to die outside the Promised land. But then, when Jesus walks the earth, we see that Moses was not barred for all eternity from the Promised land. In fact, he appears with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, which occured inside the borders of the Promised Land. Once again, we see God's mercy.

Now we move on to Saul. Here is a man that is chosen to be the first king of Israel. He's a man that God honours with a high position among the people of God. We never read though of where he cedes his will to God. He repeatedly does things that are dishonest and at odds with God. He rebels against, disobeys, and ignores God. Finally he is driven to a place where he consults a witch at Endor, and has Samuel appear from the dead. We know that it wasn't a trick by the witch, as the Bible records her fear and astonishment when someone actually appears. This requires a supernatural act by God in a last ditch effort to bring Saul to a place of repentance. Even to the very end, God was showing mercy and love to Saul. The kingdom had already been taken away, but God was still trying to reach Saul and bring him back to a place of covenant.

Then there's David. This man is blessed beyond compare. He has everything a man in his era could desire, including the benevolence of God. But he falls into adultery and murder. He seduces a woman, impregnates her, and attempts to cover his sin with another one. Of course, in the true spirit of mercy, God sends the prophet to point out the sin, and allows David to repent. Yes, the child would die, and yes, there were issues in David's house until he died, but God did not damn him to hell when that would have been the appropriate punishment.

The last example I want to use is the woman brought before Jesus on the charge of adultery. She had every expectation to die. So often, we focus on the men that brought her to Jesus, but we neglect her side of it. Here's a woman that has been brought before Jesus fully knowing her guilt, but ALSO knowing that her accusers could only accuse her if they were actually present and/or involved in her sin. The Law stated that only with 2 or 3 witnesses could a charge be upheld, and the witnesses had to cast the first stones. The reason for this part of the law is that if someone falsely accused another, they would be guilty of murder before God, and would be without hope in eternity. How this bears on the woman is thus: when Jesus told the men that the one that was without sin should cast the first stone, He was forcing them to either admit their duplicity in the act (they brought only the woman, which begs the question: where is the man? According to the original language, it can be argued that they were fully guilty in the actual act of adultery with the woman), or walk away without pressing the matter further. When they had all left, there were no witnesses and noone to carry out the sentence of death. Note that Jesus did not at any point say that she hadn't sinned. Rather He said "Go thy way, and sin no more". In saying that, he was stating her guilt, as well as His forgiveness on the matter, and a command to not do it anymore. This story is a complete depiction of God's love. Fully knowing her guilt, knowing that she knew the penalty, He gave her a way out. He offered hope and deliverance to a life that was without right to any future.

If Jesus could die on a cross, with the full ability to save His natural life and body, and declare to the Heavens "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", then those of us without divine right to judge ought to learn from the same. We are wronged in life, we suffer hurt and shame at the hands of others. But we have a God commanded duty to suffer the wrong, forgive, and then minister to the very people we feel have wronged us. Nowhere do we read of where we can pass judgement, even in our own minds, on others. The way God's children are known is by our love. If you do not show love exclusively, then you don't show God.

I hope I finally got this off my chest. I want so much for people to live with hope and knowledge of God's mercy. There's enough condemnation and accusation by people outside God's church that it is unnecessary and self-defeating for God's people to do it. People know they are wrong and that they are not right with God. They don't need to be told that. They need to be shown the light, not the darkness of their life.

God Bless you, keep you, and encourage you.

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