Sep 22, 2013

Why Mercy makes us Uncomfortable

My God is strong enough to raise me from the grave/ Your love is great enough to take away my shame/ Your mercy reigns / My God is making new the wreckage of my heart/ Your hand is reaching down to pull me from the dark/ Your mercy reigns/ Your mercy covers me/ Your grace sustains/ Your grace is all I need/ Your spirit is my strength to overcome the past/ I set my eyes on you and find a grace that lasts/ I'm forgiven, washed inside a love that never lets go/ You never let go

The above song has been running through my head for the past 3 weeks, last night in church we sang it and I feel like it's time I finish this devotional (I started 3 weeks ago).

In the Christian faith, we talk a lot about God's love and God's grace.  Depending on who you are listening to, it might seem that you hear a lot about God's judgement and rules as well. Something that isn't specifically talked about {though implied in His grace and love} is God's mercy.

I personally believe that the reason we don't LIKE to talk about mercy, is because there is no mercy without sin, and modern Christians don't like to think about {talk about, consider, or admit to having} sin.  Defined, mercy is "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm."  In practice: because I am a sinner, it is within God's power to punish me, but He shows me mercy and instead has adopted me as His daughter. 

In contrast, our primary cultural focus is on God's love and His grace.  Grace defined is "the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings."  I totally get it, when we look primarily at God's love and grace, we are focusing in on what God has done for us, even if it's unmerited.  This undeserved gift tells us that we are cherished, without the messy, uncomfortable stress of looking at WHY we don't deserve the gift {because we intentionally make wrong choices; a nice way to say "sin"}.

It has to be said, the idea of sin {in my opinion} has been watered down until it's now something that most people don't really understand.  Even though most people will admit to sinning, we don't really understand how destructive sin can be in our lives. 

The Bible does talk about sin and the consequences of sin throughout, with the word {in all of its various forms} mentioned more than 500 times.  The Old Testament is full of stories that warn us away from and show us that sin has consequences {both here on Earth and in the afterlife}.

Despite clear definitions all through the Bible, sin is still a very ambiguous idea.   I blame Jesus.  He came and freed us from the law {Romans 8:1-4}, which means we no longer have to worry about the eternal consequences of our sin.

 Yet, when many Christians talk about sin, we are looking at a specific laundry list of sins {the 10 Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1-17 or lists about the sinful nature in Colossians 3:5-6 or Galatians 5:19-21}, and the eternal consequences of that sin {permanent separation from God in hell}.  It's something we recognize as first steps when we say "the sinners prayer"; first, everyone sins {Romans 3:23}, and second, the wages of sin is death {Romans 6:23}.  Scripture tells us that not only is it sinful to do those things we know are wrong, it is also sinful to NOT do what is right, when we know we should {James 4:17}.

It's common to struggle with sin as a Christian {Romans 7:18, Galatians 5:17}.  Don't worry, God can handle it.  We will continue this struggle until we die.  It's part of being a believer. This is not permission to sin!  The idea of "struggling" with sin is that you are fighting against the tendency to sin, not shrugging your shoulders and giving in.

It is important to remember that we can't sin so much that we lose our salvation, {John 10:28, Romans 8:38-39, Romans 5:20-21}.  God will not reject us, even when we mess up.

Even though we have security in our relationship with God, if we give sin control over our lives, it will destroy us.  Sin can sear your conscience, overwhelm you with shame, destroy your marriage, hurt your children, damage your friendships, sap your power, choke your fruitfulness, steal your joy, shorten your life, hinder your witness, prevent your prayers and make you feel isolated and trapped.

Even though God won't reject you, He will not ignore your sin.  In Hebrews 12:1-13, the scripture talks about God's discipline when we sin.  That discipline is a real thing.   Oh, and the idea that all sins are equal?  Not so much.


Are you still here?  This is the happy ending.

Have you ever sinned "big"?  I have.  More than once.  If you've experienced the internal turmoil that accompanies "big sin", you will have a better understanding than most about the value of mercy.

When I say "big" I am referring to sin that causes {or has the potential to cause} serious life-changing consequences. 

I am a wretch.  {Like Amazing Grace says....}  I desperately need the mercy that God offers.  I have also experienced needing mercy from other humans, which really drives it home. Mercy is more powerful than grace {for me}.  It is God's love in action.

When I sinned, I trampled the Son of God underfoot (Hebrews 10:29).  I received His gift {of grace} freely and then sinned big.  The good news?  When I repented and asked for forgiveness, He scooped me up and held me close.  He covered me with Mercy.  "I'm forgiven, washed inside, {by} a love that never lets go.  He never let's go."

He can do that for you too.

God isn't the cosmic kill-joy.  He is trying to protect us from the very real consequences of sin, because He loves us.  When we live a life that seeks to obey God and please Him, we will live a life that is filled with joy.  What could be better?

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