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Now when was the last time you considered Gods mercy and judgment at the same time? Of course, we know God is merciful. He doesnt give us what we deserve (who would want that anyway!?). Through Jesus, we come to know God is merciful. Through Jesus we can be healed of our emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds. In other words, by grace you have been saved! As Paul said so well, Gods love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5.5) Did you deserve Gods healing presence? As the popular song goes, Its been mercy all the way!
Gods healing light brings not only wholeness, it enlightens our understanding so that we can actually take on Gods vocation: Be merciful as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.36) Through Gods mercy, we actually begin to see all people as neighbors and fellow wounded travelers in need of mercy (remember the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.25-37, esp. v.36)!
But in the life and death of Jesus there is another important trait of God that comes into clearer focus: his judgment! In our age of tolerance, I recognize this side of God is out of vogue. I mean, when is the last time you heard a sermon on the coming judgment of God and his fierce and holy wrath? However, to ignore Gods impending judgment would be like saying the moon isnt as important as the sun because its not as powerful or we dont see it that much. The truth is, the Bible often reveals God as Judge. And the job of the judge is, well, to judge. The New Testament also speaks on occasion how God handed over his judges gavel to Jesus (John 5.30, At. 17.32, 2 Tim. 4.1,8). Even while on earth we see Jesus judging: calling sinners to repentance and the self-appointed righteous to quit playing religion.
We tend to look at these two attributes mercy and judgment as diametrically opposed. But in the life and teaching of Jesus we often see them converging. Yes, through the Son, Gods mercy and judgment met!
Yes, through the Son, Gods mercy and judgment met!|
An unjust situation? It would be comparable to a group of people today being shot down during the communion service. The crowd wanted to know, in effect, why did this bad thing have to happen to seemingly good people. And Jesus response:
Unless YOU repent, you too will perish
And just in case we didnt get it, Jesus throws in another story to make the same point, followed by the same command:
Unless YOU repent, you too will perish.
What are we to make of these hard words from our Masters lips? Quite frankly, they are words of judgment. In short, Jesus says, Of course bad things happen... and to good, Bible-believing people at that. But Jesus word to the crowd and to us was Repent!
In other words, the question was not, why do bad things happen to good people; rather, the question was:
Why do good things happen to people who are bad?
That means if you are alive today, you are alive by the mercy of God. You havent earned your right to be alive! Life is a gift and a merciful gift at that, especially when we consider all the foolish things we have done that actually should have caused us to die. Indeed, when we comprehend this fact that God is merciful, we will repent!
So, why did those asking the big question need to repent? For the same reason that you and I need to repent. Were not perfect. Oh, were not as bad as some, but how do you measure up to Gods perfect Son? Who among us is always merciful as Jesus commanded? Who among us can say not guilty? There is no one righteous, no not one (Rom. 3.10).
Thankfully, Jesus word of judgment, the call to repent, was not the last word on that day. He went on to tell a most wonderful story found right on the heels of the call to repent. In this parable, the owner of a certain vineyard came looking for fruit from a certain fig tree. In fact, he had been coming for some time, only to find nothing. He demanded the tree to be cut down as it was wasting precious soil but the gardener pleaded for one more year, even committing to provide the tree with some extra TLC. Yes, the parable is short but the message comes across loud and clear. Like the owner of the vineyard, God is merciful! Yes, he is Judge and he is angry at the unrepentant lifestyles that reign on earth. But he is so merciful, and gives to us generously day after day after day so that we might turn to him with all of our hearts. As Peter said,
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3.9)
Part of the great news is that when we live repentant lives, we become fruitful (Luke 3.8-14). God accepts even our most feeble attempts at repentance and floods us with his mercy and steadfast love (i.e., the Prodical son Luke 15). Yes, God is Judge and he will eventually judge all those who dont return to him, but the good news of Jesus is that judgment does not have to be the final word!
Considering both the judgment and mercy of God at the same time can be a spiritual eclipse, something that can blind our eyes or even make us fearful. But through Jesus, we can dare to look at God and know that his mercy indeed triumphs over judgment. (James 2.23)
HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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© 1999 Scott Owings. Used by permission.