Our world has set up a tremendous barrier between mercy and truth, unashamedly declaring that the two simply cannot co-exist. But the biblical truth is not just that the two can co-exist, but that they must.
Mercy depends upon truth. (And therefore, truth paves the way for mercy.)
It is absolutely vital that we, as Christians, get this right and refuse to settle for anything less than the intimate interweaving of mercy and truth. Not just because that is the way that God would have it, but because that is the way that God is.
When God first came to dwell among His people in the Tabernacle, He dwelt in the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place. Inside the Most Holy Place laid the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the words of the Lord's commandments. And just above the Ark of the Covenant, just over the word of truth, sat the Throne of Mercy (alternately called the Mercy Seat), and it is here that the glory of the Lord descended and dwelt.
On mercy. Nestled just over the truth.
That's not an accident. It's not a coincidence. It's not an afterthought, as though God designed this entire Tabernacle and then thought, hmm, now where would be a good place for Me to dwell?
No, He knew He would dwell in mercy on truth. He knew this was the way that He would come into His world - not denying the truth of where the world had fallen, but neither forsaking it to its own temptations. In order for God to come into this world and continue to be, well, God, He had to make a way for the world to be painfully as it was - fallen, sinful, rebellious, and heartbreaking (truth) - without losing that incredible love that makes Him God - forgiving, treasuring, grieving, and still loving (mercy).
And if this is what's missing from our world, which says that the two cannot co-exist, then even more tragic is that this is coming to be what is missing from our God, as we try to make Him more palatable to the world. Because when they don't understand that mercy and truth depend upon one another, they cannot fathom a God who could be both.
So we have watered Him down. Ironically, in a world so hell-bent on an unforgiving truth - he should be fired; write him off; cut her up - we have watered down God in favor of mercy, preaching a Savior who quite honestly doesn't care that much about what you do but loves you no matter what. He doesn't require you to confess anything, and He doesn't require you to change anything. He's here for you, and that doesn't put any burden on your life.
It's pure blessing, through and through, all the way around. This God of tremendous mercy who has no care at all for things like truth. Truth, you know, gets in the way of all that love and all those good feelings that God has toward you. Truth, you know, gets in the way of His just forgiving you and blessing you and spoiling you and making your life beautiful and amazing because you are beautiful and amazing. Forget all that sin stuff. Forget all the truth. God is pure mercy without all that.
Understandably, the world then looks at us and says, how can this be? How can your God claim to be loving and be all mercy? How can your God just love everyone when a lot of persons (not me, of course) are pure jerks, total wastes of skin, don't deserve the air their breathing? How can you tell us that your God loves me when the way that you paint Him in mercy ignores the truth of who these pathetic wastes of human beings are? You're telling me God loves me, but you're telling me, too, that He loves the moron, the molester, and the murderer.
No wonder the world doesn't buy it. It doesn't make sense. Mercy without truth doesn't make any sense, and even a world that doesn't particularly care for the interwovenness of both together recognizes this reality. Mercy without truth is empty.
Truth without mercy is bitter.
The only way it works is the way that God proclaimed it from the very beginning. And if we love this God, and if He loves this world, then the only way to have it is the way that He brought it. To the indwelling of the Most Holy Place in mercy upon truth.