Sunday, April 12, 2015

Judgment and Mercy

April 12, 2015: 2nd Sunday of Easter––Sunday of Divine Mercy
Acts 4:32–35 / 1 John 5:1–6 / John 20:19–31
Judgment and Mercy

On this Sunday of Divine Mercy we are drawn into the heart of God that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The beloved apostle John writes in his first letter: God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1Jn 4:9,10). 

We look at the cross and see the justice of God. The cross is a picture of what happens when disobedience (sin) comes against the righteousness of God. But even more, look at the cross and see the mercy of God––the water and the blood flowing from the heart of Jesus. God chose to let the repercussion of evil fall upon himself instead of letting righteous judgment fall on us.

With this, two things become very significant. First, the righteous judgment of God is a reality. God is a righteous judge simply because he is God. This is inherent in God’s very character and being. Second, there is a mercy that rises above judgment. Just as the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity so that a huge jet plane can fly thousands of feet in the air and come down without crashing, God provides a mercy that supersedes judgment falling on us. But, if we choose to reject God’s mercy (because the nature of love involves a true choice), then just as the law of gravity is still in force alongside the law of aerodynamics, God’s righteous judgment remains. Understanding this part of Truth is the reason that the reality of Mercy is so incredible.

In itself, the righteous judgment of God is a good thing. It is the basis for true goodness and order. Humans have been created to hunger for goodness and order. There is a problem, though, that is our fault. Disobedience undermines goodness and order, and in our brokenness we have distorted views of what is truly good. (This perspective is mostly missing from the issues popularly discussed by mainstream media.)

Still, we look at some things and say “How awful!” Our world gives us such prompts almost every day; our news is filled with shootings, terrorism, child abuse…. When we say How awful! we are confessing our desire for true goodness and order. We are also passing judgment that something is horribly wrong. When G. K. Chesterton was asked what was wrong with the world, he replied “I am.” Each of us is broken, and when all our brokenness gets stirred into the pot we find ourselves living in a truly broken world.

The only way out is through mercy. We need mercy. Because we are broken––and because all that is right and good and true is rooted in God––there are only two ultimate options for us. Each one of us is on a path either to judgment or to healing. Our healing (and our holiness––our sainthood) is possible because Jesus took upon himself the righteous judgment of God. This is Divine Mercy.

When we are truly honest with ourselves––in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do––we know that we need mercy. Apart from mercy we cannot escape the righteous judgment of God. When we truly believe that God has given us mercy in Jesus Christ, we see ourselves and our world differently.

I often look at a crucifix and think, “He took my place.” We are invited to hear Jesus still say, at least figuratively, Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.

I look at a world filled with hate and evil, pain and death, and think, “This is what happens when God’s ways are ignored and rejected.”

Then I hear that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. I recognize that what is proclaimed about Jesus came from eyewitnesses whose lives were transformed, and they were willing to die for what they had seen and experienced. So we have John ending his Gospel by saying, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

We are not told everything we would like to know. Yet we have been given enough to understand the difference between mercy and judgment. This is what mercy desires: that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

On this Sunday of Divine Mercy, turn away from the evil lies that bring judgment to our world. Keep your heart open to the mercy of our Lord and hear his welcoming words: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. They shall obtain mercy. May each of us be numbered among them.

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