Rich in Mercy
Thursday - September 17th
Scripture to Read Today: Ephesians 2:1-10
Merciful: God holds back the judgment we deserve
Day 17 of 30 Days of the Names and Attributes of God
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,
that even though we were dead because of our sins,
he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.
Years ago, I heard author and speaker Josh McDowell discuss God's love and how mercy and grace fit into that incredible love. McDowell told a fictional story to help us understand the distinctions. Here is my version of that story.
A nine-year-old boy named James got caught cheating on a spelling test at school. He found himself in big trouble at school and knew that he would be in big trouble at home too. The school called his parents, and his dad, Mike, went to the school to take James home. On the way home, Mike asked his son what kind of punishment he deserved at home because of his cheating.
Of course, this put James in an awkward position. On the one hand, he knew that his father wanted him to demonstrate remorse in his response, to indicate that he took the cheating seriously. On the other hand, James did not want to suggest a punishment that would be too severe on himself. As they arrived home, Mike asked James what the penalty should be. James suggested a period of being grounded, removing video game privileges for a season, and missing out on two or three little league baseball games. Mike thanked him for the suggestions and told James to go to his room while his parents discussed the punishment.
A half-hour after arriving home, Mike called James into the living room. Father and son sat knee to knee facing each other. Mike started the conversation. "James, your mother, and I have talked. We have decided on the path we will take regarding your cheating at school." James made an audible swallow preparing himself for what was about to come. His father's next words shocked and confused James.
"Your mother and I decided that you will not be grounded, you will not lose your video game privileges, and you will not miss any baseball games." James braced himself again and thought to himself, "What horrible punishment did they decide on then?" Mike then told his son to get his jacket and meet him at the car. James did just that. Mike drove his son to the local sports store and bought James the new baseball glove he had wanted. After that stop, they headed to Dairy Queen, where Mike bought James his favorite DQ item, a Peanut Buster Parfait.
As you can imagine, James sat quietly confused on their ride home together. The new baseball glove and a Peanut Buster Parfait? What could this mean? Did his father do this to show some sign of hope and love before he lowered the boom with some drastic punishment?
As they arrived home, Mike told James to go to his room, do his homework, and then return to the living room to say goodnight to his parents before heading to bed. James could hardly think while working on his math homework. What diabolical plan was his dad working? Was his mom in on this dastardly endeavor too?
When he returned to the living room before heading to bed, he finally had to ask. "Dad, thanks for the new baseball glove and the ice cream, but please tell me; what is my horrible punishment for cheating at school? I have to know, or I will not be able to go to sleep.”
Mike hugged his son and said, "You know your mother and I love you, right, James?" "Yes," James responded sheepishly, still bracing for what was about to come. "There will be no punishment for your cheating at school today," Mike said. Now, you can go to bed. "We love you, honey," James' mom added. "Wait," James said. "What do you mean? I will not get punished, AND you bought me a new glove and a Peanut Butter Parfait on the same day I got caught cheating at school?"
Mike explained to James why his parents were taking such an odd approach in their response to James' cheating. "You know your mother and I love you," Mike began. "We chose to do something today that we will probably never do again. We showed you mercy by not punishing you. We showed you grace by giving you the new glove and the Peanut Butter Parfait."
Mike continued explaining. "You see, son. God loves all of us. We deserve eternal punishment for our sins before God. But, God is merciful. That means that He does not give us the punishment we deserve. Jesus took our punishment on the cross so we would not have to experience it. That is mercy.”
“Your mother and I bought you the baseball glove and the Peanut Butter Parfait as acts of grace. You not only experienced mercy in our love for you, but you also experienced grace in our love for you. Grace is getting a gift or blessing you don't deserve. As we put our faith in Jesus, we are saved by His grace. He gives us eternal life and complete forgiveness before Him. We do not deserve those gifts. That is grace.”
McDowell's story speaks volumes to us about God's grace and mercy. Today as we focus on God's mercy to us in not giving us the punishment and judgment we deserve, take a moment to thank God for being merciful to you. Thank Him that, through Christ, there is now no more condemnation or punishment for you! While you are at it, thank Him for His grace too! He has given you far more than a baseball glove or a Peanut Buster Parfait!
In Christ, we do not, and will never, receive the punishment we deserve! Our God is rich in mercy!