I ask this question every so often, in a positive tone.
We like to portray God as a cosmic king who sits on his throne and judges the world. Actually, he’s just the opposite.
It’s easy to find fault with anyone and everyone, including me. We’re all guilty of something, actually lots of things. God doesn’t need to judge us. We’re very good at doing that ourselves.
No, God’s specialty is not judgment, but mercy. Despite the fact that we’re all guilty of lots of things, God chooses to save some of us, even though not one of us deserves it.
Why me? That’s why I ask this question.
Real life encouragement
Mercy is receiving something we don’t deserve.
It’s a Bible word, but it works in “real life,” too.
One of the youth directors at our church offers a three-times-a-week after-school basketball program for inner-city high school students. Sometimes, two dozen of them show up.
Joe doesn’t have to do that. But he does, because he wants to give these young men something they don’t have.
Hope. Encouragement. A safe place to play ball (this is not as easy as it sounds). A father figure. An introduction to the living God.
Most of these young men have no church background. They might be experiencing this side of “real life” for the first time.
Mercy lets us look up, and look beyond ourselves.
The apostle Paul wishes mercy for Timothy, a young pastor he mentored. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that are included in the New Testament, one detailing the qualifications of church leaders, the other a personal letter of encouragement.
The best gifts
Paul wished two other things for Timothy as well: grace and peace (1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2).
Indeed, Paul wrote more than a dozen letters to New Testament audiences (and to us), and in all of them he wished his readers grace and peace (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus and Philemon).
Some of these letters were written to churches, others to specific individuals. He prayed for grace and peace for all of them. Those themes are repeated throughout his letters.
Grace, mercy and peace are gifts to us from God. We cannot give any of them back to God. If we give grace, mercy or peace to each other, we learn how to do that from God.
‘We cannot remain insensitive’
We need those desperately in our world today. We don’t have to attend church to see that.
In today’s local newspaper, there are several articles – just today – that bear this out.
In one article, Associated Press writer Ted Anthony summed up the world scene this way:
There are those mornings when you come into work and everyone seems cranky. That’s how it felt at the United Nations this past week during the annual gathering of world leaders. Speech after gloomy speech by leaders from all corners of the planet pointed toward one bleaker-than-thou condition: Humanity clearly needs a spa day.
A spa day. Actually, the world needs more than that. It needs a new direction. Grace, mercy and peace would go a long way toward the world’s people – ie, you and I – learning how to get along with each other. Just saying.
In another article, Pope Francis offered this take on the world:
“We cannot be indifferent to the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty, to the bleak isolation, contempt and discrimination experienced by those who do not belong to ‘our group.’ We cannot remain insensitive, our hearts deadened, before the misery of so many innocent people. We must not fail to weep. We must not fail to respond.”
Is the Pope correct? Why do we reject the Scriptures, when they have the answers to what the world is longing for? We learn to not be indifferent to poverty and other struggles of fellow human beings because God placed a caring heart inside each of us. Are we listening?
The issues of life on Earth are that basic and universal.
A third article offers this assessment:
The latest election seems unlikely to bring the peace sought by Afghans tired of an increasingly brutal war, or an easy exit for the United States, seeking to end its longest military engagement.
Many of these issues don’t have easy solutions. Fighting in Afghanistan has gone on for what seems like forever.
The only game plan that works
Where is peace? When will we understand that the benefits of peace far outweigh the disadvantages?
When we submit to God, that’s when. No human being or government can bring lasting peace.
We’ve tried in our own country, and done pretty well at it over the past two centuries, actually.
But look at us now. Even the U.S. Constitution can’t guarantee peace.
If we can’t get along with our neighbors, how can we possibly get along with the rest of the world? If our own families are in disarray, how can we promote peace elsewhere?
By returning to God, that’s how. The God of the Old and New Testaments has the game plan for grace and peace, not just in the next life, but right here, right now.
The key is not judgment, but mercy. Every one of us is guilty. We need to look beyond ourselves and seek a higher truth, since none of us – no, not one – has the ultimate truth in and of ourselves.
Your truth may not work for me. My truth likely won’t work for you. We argue on this level all the time.
We’re missing the point. Neither of us has a truth worth defending.
Men and women struggle to implement God’s truths. We screw it up. That doesn’t mean God, or His truths, are wrong. It means we humans are messed up. That’s all.
News flash: We’re all messed up. We’re all messed up.
Grace, mercy and peace are possible. They are available to us, today.
We have to ask the God of the Bible for them, because none of us is capable of offering grace, mercy and peace to anyone.
It’s not about us. We can’t earn grace, mercy and peace. The other world religions – all of them – do not understand this. That’s why Jesus said, in no uncertain terms, that His way is the only way to meet God.
One person at a time.
Speech after gloomy speech … We cannot be indifferent … seems unlikely to bring the peace …
The need is obvious, is it not?
So is the solution.