Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Life of Mercy

"So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
-James 2.12-13

When looking at the life of Christ I find that His was a life full of mercy toward others. He, as God Himself, had the authority to judge all men and will indeed be the ultimate Judge at the end of the age. Yet we find that Jesus lived on this earth in order to save the world, with no compulsion to condemn it (John 3.17). It is interesting to realize that He came in all mercy, pouring out compassion on those who were absolutely undeserving of it. It was not those who were esteemed in the eyes of the world, but those who were looked down upon that flocked to Jesus. This was because sinful man is quick to judge others from a lofty tower of self-righteousness. Christ showed favor and by this He reached down into the depths of souls and awakened in them the desire to love. For all men feel the effects of their own desire to be loved by another; the desire is never fulfilled but is always realized a farce. Stronger even than the desire to be loved is the desire to love another. Does not God Himself show this to be true? God has no need to be loved by man, for He is fully sufficient in His very self. Yet He created man in His own image, that He might love man and give man the ability to love God and his fellow men. In that the Son of Man so changed the lives of those around Him, His children have also been called to do the same.

It seems so much easier to judge others rather than to have mercy on them. Lack of clarity regarding the choice between judgment and mercy may simply be a lack of having plumbed the depths of mercy. Is it not easier to forgive another for something that we ourselves have received forgiveness? Truly we have been forgiven all our faults and yet we live as if others cannot have theirs forgiven. As we have forgiven so also should we forgive others. Do the Scriptures not say such a thing? Too often I have misled myself into condemning others for the sin I see present in them and I am left to wonder why there is no positive response to my reproof. MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT. The validity of such a statement seems skeptical but Christ Himself proved it to be true! We know that man has plenty to condemn him, but only One can save him. It is not our prerogative to highlight the shortcomings in another, but to show unto others that same mercy that we have been shown. This can create a thirst and a hunger in another for that mercy and grace that only comes from God. The life of mercy is not achieved through morality and kindness, but is achieved when such mercy as one's self has received so also gives unto others.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Love, hate, and everything in between

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." -I John 4.18

I love you.
This is what God says to me every moment of every day.

I hate you. I cannot accept your love. I only care about me. I want to do what I want to do. I will gratify my own sinful desires even though I know I will regret it afterward. I'm too busy to talk to you. I'm too bored to spend time reading your book. I deserve to be punished. I'm afraid. I despise you.
This is what I say to God a majority of the time.

I have always thought that the correct approach to dealing with my sin is to confess it as soon as possible and ask for forgiveness so that I will not be punished for my sin against God. The biggest reason I avoid sin is because I am afraid of the consequences. I fear the effect on others and the wrath of God. However much I seek to avoid it, when I am faced with my sin it is a pointed reminder that I am not perfect nor will I ever be sinless in this life. What does it mean to be forgiven your sins if you must continue to ask for forgiveness? I hold that I have been forgiven once and for all and that God loves me - this love is without fear.
I do not have to be afraid, for I am loved by God. Perfect love has nothing whatsoever to do with fear. There is nothing to fear if there is no punishment involved in the relationship between me and God. He will not punish me for anything, for I am his child and he is my Father. On the other hand, he will not relinquish his duty to discipline me when it is necessary for my sake and/or the sake of those around me. Discipline is the correction for the good of the other; punishment is to make one pay the price for a wrong done. It is only by understanding the reality of God's position of love that I may be made complete in that love.

"We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who doe snot love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we ahve from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." -I John 4.19-21

I am called to love everyone with the same kind of love that God showers upon me. Do I hold up expectations for people that they are unable to fulfill and so condemn them in my mind as failures who do not deserve to be loved the same as those who are apparently walking in obedience? It is easy to point out the faults of one whom I know well and seek to change their behavior, rather than loving them for who they are, failures and all. Will I trust that the power of the Holy Spirit is more able to change people from the inside out than I am able to berate their behavior? Sometimes I think it may be better to say nothing at all, even though someone may have totally just screwed up. Can I not wait until later to talk to them about it in private so they are not condemned before others? Love calls me to come and die: to give up what I want so that I may serve others in order to give them what they need.

Love gives me hope that when I fail I can walk up to my Father, give him a hug, tell him I failed, and ask him what to do now.