Category Archives: Mercy vs Judgment

As Far As the East Is From the West

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I was driving to a friend’s house the other night (about 3 a.m. on May 28th), and listening to the radio as I was driving. I forget if it was a song, or something the DJ said, but whatever it was, it got me thinking about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west”, which is a phrase used in Psalm 103,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV.

So then I started thinking of all these questions: can you reach the east if you start in the west? Can you reach the west if you start in the east? I mean, you can reach the North Pole if you start from the South Pole, and vice versa, so why can’t you reach the east from the west? The problem is, there is no East Pole, nor is there a West Pole to use as starting points, as there is with the North and the South Poles.

So maybe being able to physically travel from west to east, or from east to west, isn’t the point of the idea.

What is the point, then?

When I asked myself that question, I started thinking about the images that come to mind when I think about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west…”. Things like the infinitude of God’s love, and the limitless quality of His mercy. Most particularly, however, the image that comes to mind is that of Christ on the cross with His arms stretched out from east to west. It says in the Book of John,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ John 15:13, NKJV.

Jesus Christ’s whole purpose for stepping down from the Majesty on High and coming to earth was to go to the cross and take humanity’s place, to take the punishment for our sin. That’s how much God loved us, that He would plan, with His Son and the Holy Spirit, from the foundation of the world, to deal with the problem of sin by sending Jesus to earth to take our place and assume our punishment. And a terrible punishment it was, because our sin was terrible. It still is, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take care of all of it for all time.

To me, this is beauty personified.

Oh my! When I think of that I’m left speechless! I am a sinful person. I’m full of pride, and I make mistakes all the time, every day. One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 7,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

I can so well relate to the Apostle Paul here! The preceding verses describe my day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute existence. Romans 7 portrays it so well,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. ~ Romans 7:19, NLT.

It’s almost as if God was watching me when He told Paul to write that passage of Scripture! And yet, He loves me and wants me, regardless of my sinfulness.

I thank God for that everyday and in every way.

O Wretched Man That I Am!

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Every once in awhile I do or say something that reminds me of just how sinful I truly am.

On May 5th (the second Sunday after Easter), Nick Vujicic, founder of Life Without Limbs, a ministry based in Australia, preached at my church. He’s very well known, so all three services were quite well attended, with the main sanctuary being packed, and the overflow seating as well.

I was able to get a seat in the main sanctuary, but only just barely. I have a compulsive need to sit on the aisle, because I feel closed in if there are people sitting on both sides of me, and the only aisle seat available was down in front next to the wall. Unfortunately, even though the seat was on the aisle, because it was next to the wall and by the stage ~ basically in the right front corner of the room ~ my ability to see the stage, and therefore Nick Vujicic, was extremely limited.

There was one open seat next to me that improved my visibility, so I sat there, and prayed that no one would take the aisle seat.

Actually, what I thought was, “I hope whoever sits there isn’t fat like me.”

Then I listened to what I’d just said to myself, and felt a wave of disgust wash over me. This couldn’t be pleasing to God! What was I to do?

I quickly decided that the most important thing I needed to do was repent, and ask for God’s forgiveness, so that’s what I did.

But God’s forgiveness notwithstanding, I was still left with the disquieting question of why I’d allowed myself to think like that in the first place.

That’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of Romans, Chapter Seven,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:15, 19, and 24, ESV.

When the Scriptures were originally written down they weren’t separated into chapters and verses, so Romans 7 and Romans 8 were transcribed as one long discourse.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that, because, while Romans 7:15 through the end of the chapter bemoan our sinfulness, Romans 8 gratefully and joyfully acknowledges Christ’s victory over that sin through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Chapter 8 also specifically says that nothing, including our sin, can separate us from the love of Jesus,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39, ESV.

I’m so grateful and thankful for God’s love for me! Now I need to get my thought-life in line with God’s Word, and specifically the fruit of the Spirit listed in the Book of Galatians,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23, ESV.

So all is not lost. God’s Word is at work in my life, and while I did experience an unpleasant confrontation with my humanity and sinfulness, I also became aware once again of just how much God loves me regardless of my sin.

Thanks be to God for His unfathomable and unspeakable gift!

Justice and Mercy Both Win at the Cross

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God showed me something this morning. I was driving to a doctor’s appointment and listening to a song on the radio. The song reminded me of a Scripture verse I’ve been thinking about recently, James 2:12-13,

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:12-13, NKJV.

What I realized was, at the cross God got the justice He required for humanity’s sin because Jesus bore the punishment for our sins by dying for us. But God isn’t only a just God, He’s also a merciful God; two of His attributes are justice and mercy, not just justice. And at the cross God required justice, but He also desired mercy for His dealings with mankind. So He got justice by allowing Jesus to bear the punishment we deserved, and then gave us His mercy and grace as a free gift instead.

How cool is that?!

Instead of the justice and punishment we deserved, we got the mercy and grace we didn’t earn ~ and sonship! We became sons and daughters of God because we were adopted into the family of God!

All we have to do is receive His free gift of salvation by faith. We don’t have to be good enough, or clean enough, or anything enough. All we have to do is confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts according to Romans 10:9-10,

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10, NLT.

It doesn’t seem like a fair exchange, does it? Maybe that’s because it’s not, but who am I to argue when I get by far the best end of the deal! I mean, all God gets is little ole, imperfect me. And I get Jesus Christ as a big brother, and saved, and redeemed, and the whole Kingdom of God, and Heaven, and a relationship with God, and EVERYTHING!!

Such a deal!! It absolutely boggles my mind, and fills me to overflowing with such gratitude that I can hardly think straight!

Thank you, Jesus!!

Monsters Aren’t Monsters. They’re Evil Humans.

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When someone commits a particularly heinous and horrific crime, especially if he perpetrates a whole series of extremely monstrous and evil acts, people ofttimes refer to that person as a monster. But I don’t think such a one is a monster because, it seems to me, giving them such a designation makes them less than human, and it feels like somehow that excuses their behavior.

I think rather they’re fully human, just as human as any other person on earth. The difference is, they’re giving place to the lowest, most sordid, wicked, degenerate, and evil desires that a human being can have. Rather than allowing God to reign in their minds, they’re giving Satan free rein. Rather than being a mix of evil and good, as most people are, they are entirely and perfectly evil, with no good in them, or at the most, very little good.

I’m not sure there is a human being who is perfectly evil with absolutely no good, because it’s hard for me to think about giving up on anyone. God didn’t give up on me when I was at my worst. Seems to me the only one who is entirely evil with absolutely no good is Satan himself, but I could be wrong about that. There might be others who’ve sold their souls to him, I suppose.

Another aspect of this, though the connection may be somewhat tenuous, is when people commit murder and then kill themselves. I’ve always thought people who commit such crimes perpetrate them and then commit suicide so they don’t have to face justice. But I think they’re only thinking about human justice, without considering divine justice, which is much more sure and all-encompassing, because God knows all the facts of the case.

Seems to me such people have, at the very least, a poor understanding of who God is, if they believe He exists at all. If they truly understood God they would know that it would be better to face justice in human courts than to have deal with the consequences of God’s divine justice. In a human court they might be able to get away with lying, if they’re good enough at it, plus they might be able to hide their true motivations before a human judge, whereas that’s not possible with God. God knows our deepest motivations, and the thoughts and intents of our hearts. You can’t put anything past God.

But there could be another reason why people commit suicide after they perpetrate these heinous crimes: maybe they all of a sudden realize what they’ve done, and they find it so unacceptable that they decide they don’t deserve to live any longer. In other words, they’ve created an extreme example of internal cognitive dissonance by their actions, so they kill themselves, thus exacting capital punishment on themselves before anyone else has time to carry it out.

However, in punishing themselves, they’re proving once again that they don’t understand God’s character at all. It says in James, Chapter 2,

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:12-13, NIV.

What that says to me is that while God is a god of judgment, He is also a god of mercy, and if we are merciful in our dealings with other people, He will allow mercy to reign over judgment in His relationship with us. They’ve also shown that they believe they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or at least it’s unpardonable to them, and they think it deserves the death penalty. Seems to me they’re saying that they know better than God, which sounds a little arrogant to me, but what do I know.

I for one would much rather have God’s mercy than His judgment, and God is far smarter than I am as far as whether my sins are forgivable or not, so I think I’ll let Him make those decisions!

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment…

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I’ve been thinking about a phrase from James, Chapter Two, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” ~ James 2:12-13,

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. ~ ESV.

And I especially like the way the New Living Translation says it, because it explains what’s meant by the phrase, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I’ve long thought that mercy and judgment were inextricably intertwined, and the way the New Living Translation phrases it, it seems that I’m understanding it correctly:

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.James 2:13, NLT.

I found a good illustration of this concept in Matthew 18:23-35, the parable that Jesus told of the unforgiving servant, and the New Living Translation tells it quite well:

Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold ~ along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned ~ to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, “Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.”

Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. “Be patient with me, and I will pay it,” he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.

This says to me that for mercy to triumph over judgment, forgiveness must be offered by the wronged party to the person who wronged them. So, while God certainly plays a part in the matter, if we want God to judge us mercifully come judgment day, we must act with mercy towards others in our dealings with them in this life. We must forgive when we are wronged rather than holding a grudge or seeking revenge. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (see Matthew 5:44), and that’s certainly what He did when He forgave those who crucified Him as He was on the cross (see Luke 23:34), which is all the more remarkable considering the agony and excruciating pain He was in at the time.

So Christ is our example, and He’s the best example we have. If I need to know what to do in any situation, all I have to do is figure out what Jesus would do, and if there’s no specific precedent to follow, then follow the path of Love.