Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Matter of Mercy

Why does it matter whose fault it is that your life isn't going as perfectly as you want it? Why is it so important for us to be able to confess our own sin? A popular television psychology proclaims that you can't change what you don't acknowledge, so maybe that's it. Maybe we just need to be honest with ourselves because until we are, we aren't going to change and be any different. 

That's certainly part of it, but it's much deeper than that for us as a people of faith. Failing to confess our own sin keeps us from truly experience the depth of God's love for us. 

Specifically, in this case, His mercy. 

Mercy is the idea that we don't get what we deserve. We deserve punishment. We deserve death. We deserve consequences. But the only way to experience mercy - to know that we're not getting what we deserve - is to be honest about what we deserve. We have to be honest about the ways that our mess-ups ought to be messing us up if we ever want to see God's hand in sheltering us from it. 

The mercy of God, His goodness, it's become too cheap in our Christian culture, and it is precisely for this reason. We believe ourselves to be basically good, especially if we start comparing ourselves to some of those "others." And as basically good human beings, we expect that our lives should also be basically good. And as basically good Christian human beings, we believe that our God should give us basically good things.

He has become a wish, a fantasy, a fairy godmother, a genie who is just supposed to protect our lives and keep them basically good, no matter what. We expect good from God because we deserve good from God and God says that He is good. Good, good, good all around. Why would we ever mess with good?

Because we're not good. Sorry, but we're not. If we were good, if we were even basically good, not a single drop of Jesus' blood needed shed on that Cross. Not one. If we were good, if we were even basically good, God would not have had to set in motion a plan to redeem us. We're not good. And the goodness of God's mercy isn't a given;

It's predicated on our sin.

God's mercy depends upon our being sinners. It depends upon our deserving something that we then do not receive because He is gracious and merciful to forgive us. Whatever we're experiencing of God right now in our basic goodness, it's not mercy. And if our God is not merciful to us, how can He be so many of the other things He claims to be? How could He even be good if it were not in contrast to our deserving less-than-good?

If God only gave us what we deserve, that wouldn't be "good." It would be natural. It would be expected. It would be...not at all amazing. Not at all worth worshiping. Not at all worth loving. After all, if you give to a man who can pay you back, if you invite someone who can return the favor, if you do good to someone who does good to you, what even is it? Even the pagans do this.

Our God is so much more.

So confess your sin. Own it. Fall down on your knees and bring it before the Lord. For there, in the place where you've most messed up, is the place where He will raise you up. There, in the depths of your sin, you encounter the depths of His love. In your hour of greatest need, you receive His mercy, you sinner.

And it's glorious.

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