Justice Called and Mercy Answered

Justice Called and Mercy Answered

A woman was brought to Jesus by the Pharisees. She had been caught in the very act of adultery. The evidence was beyond a shadow of a doubt. Condemnation and judgment awaited her; the sentence was sure according to the law.  Yet, Jesus, the Son of God, gave her a message: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

In 760 BC there was a wicked city called Nineveh. Godlessness, idolatry, perversions, works of the flesh, lies, plunder, violence, and witchcraft pervaded this capital city of Assyria. God sent the prophet Jonah to declare the imminent judgment of God who was going to destroy the city. The king and his people repented and begged for mercy. God turned from His judgment and did not destroy the city
(Jonah 3).

Jesus tells the story of a young man in Luke 15 who rebelled against his father. This young man walked away from the good things of home and wasted all his goods with wicked living. He found himself destitute and contaminated with sin. When he came to his senses, he headed for home, planning to ask his father to accept him as just a servant. The father was watching for his son to come home and welcomed him with open arms. This prodigal was forgiven and restored to his place in the home as a son.

Time and time again,  the children of Israel refused to obey God and followed their own sinful ways. Time and time again, God forgave and restored them. “Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:31).

At the time of the trial and crucifixion of Christ, the disciple Peter followed afar off. When asked if he was a follower of Jesus, Peter denied even knowing the Lord. He denied Him three times. At the third denial, Jesus turned and looked at Peter, who then went out and wept bitterly. When Jesus rose from the dead, He specifically sent a message to Peter to inform him of His resurrection. Jesus forgave Peter, and fifty  days later Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost.

King David committed sin with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle. When his sin was exposed, David prayed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness” (Psalm 51:1). God forgave David of his sin.

Saul, later known as Paul the Apostle, had killed and imprisoned the saints. He was a blasphemer and persecutor, and yet he obtained mercy when he recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

God’s mercy to the Gentiles was exemplified even when they were not repentent. God delayed the return of Abraham’s descendents to claim their inheritance in Canaan land because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full (Genesis 15:16). The Amorites were very sinful and yet God withheld judgment by extending time and mercy.

These brief Bible stories have something in common that ties them together. They illustrate the real and practical mercy of God. There was an overriding call for judgment, and punishment was deserved,  yet mercy answered the call. God did not and does not give people in this life what they deserve, but He is longsuffering and extends mercy. His hand of mercy is extended to all people still today. The rebellious, the sinful, the wicked, and the undeserving are not without hope, for God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

The mercy of God should permeate and be lived out practically in the lives of all people. In 2007 a man was traveling with his family by car. They were hit by a drunk driver. The husband and father turned and saw that the two children in the back seat were dead. His wife in the seat beside him, bearing their unborn child, died as well. As he stared out the broken windshield at the car driven by the drunk driver, he felt the call of God to forgive and let it all go. He extended mercy and forgiveness to the young man who had driven while drunk and taken the lives of his family.

Many years ago, a minister in the Church of God was brutally murdered. The murderer was captured and put in prison. The family testified that they forgave the man who had killed their father.

What wrongs have we committed that were worthy of punishment? How have you sinned against God? What injuries do others bear because of your actions? As God has so graciously forgiven us, so are we to forgive those around us. When people commit egregious acts and bring pain to our lives, they may not be deserving of mercy and forgiveness, but neither were we. Let us be longsuffering and extend mercy in lieu of judgment. Be the face of God and extend His love through practical mercy. When others call for judgment, call for mercy. When others want to cut someone off, call for restoration. When others seek to punish, seek to bring healing.

As our Heavenly Father has shown mercy to us, so should we do likewise to others by His grace. ■