It feels good to give and receive gifts. That is one of the joys of the holidays. Sometimes, though, it is even more heartening to give and receive for no particular reason. The other day, my husband went out to get gas for the lawnmower. When he returned, he handed me my favorite candy bar.
It wasn’t anything extravagant, of course, but it melted my heart a little. I knew that he had been thinking of me while he was out. It wasn’t because he had forgotten a birthday or anniversary. It wasn’t because he had done something to upset me. He simply wanted to make me smile because he loves me.
God is like this, too. He lavishes us with gifts each day. Grace, love, compassion, and protection are just a few. Mercy, however, is one of the most precious gifts that He offers out of His great love for us. Mercy is allowing one to go unpunished even though he or she deserves it. The Lord knows we deserve punishment. Humans are imperfect beings. We sin daily. Imagine if all the big and little ways in which we sin added up each day. I am so thankful that God grants us mercy even when we least expect it and even when we don’t deserve it.
What Does the Bible Say?
Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (New International Version). The Bible is full of examples of people who sinned, but rather than sentence them to death, God showered them with His great mercy.
- Adam and Eve – Yes, God cast them out of the Garden, but they blatantly disobeyed God’s only rule for living in Paradise. The penalty should have been a life separated from God, who is perfect and holy. Instead, He allowed Adam and Eve to live long lives. (Genesis 5:5 tells us Adam lived 930 years!) They had many offspring.
- The Disciples – Jesus did not choose these twelve men for their holiness. Paul, for example, persecuted Christians (Acts 8:1)! Matthew was a despised tax collector. He threw a party shortly after Jesus called him. Other tax collectors were there, of course. The Pharisees complained about the company Jesus kept, to which Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Notice, Jesus did not come to punish the sinners, but to guide them toward repentance and eternal life.
- The lost son – You may remember the parable. A man has two sons. One worked faithfully for the father while the other son took his half of the estate and left to live in luxury and have a good time. When he ran out of money, he realized that he had sinned against his father. He returned to him, repented, and begged to be hired as a servant instead. To his surprise, his father celebrated the young man’s return and threw a celebration for him instead. The older brother expressed most of our initial feelings: he didn’t deserve that. Perhaps that is correct, but mercy isn’t about what we deserve. It is what we get, and that is what makes it even more special.
- The Adulteress – Jesus instructed the crowd preparing to stone the woman to death to put down their stones if they had ever sinned. Of course, Jesus is the only perfect man who is without sin. Jesus tells her just as they were not able to condemn her, neither would He (John 8:9-11). Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save.
What Does that Mean for Me?
Mercy is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Even if we are the most devout Christian, we will suffer at some point in our lives. Sometimes the pain will be consequences of our actions. God gave us free will. We can choose to do things that come with unfortunate or negative outcomes. What God does promise, however, is forgiveness if you ask for it. Talk to God. Apologize for your wrongs. Ask for forgiveness. He hears you; He loves you; and He will have mercy on you as a true believer.
I have sinned against You. I am aware of some sins. Other shortcomings of mine I do not even realize. I have sinned by what I have done and by things I have neglected to do. Have mercy on me, Father. Forgive me of my sins and teach me to walk in Your ways. Help me be more like You by having mercy on those around me. I want to be slow to anger and quick to forgive the way You are with me. Thank you, God, for I know I do not deserve such mercy and grace.
In Jesus’ name I pray,