“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
As I look back over the years of my journey, there is so much I wish I would have known sooner. So much self induced heartache because of the things I didn’t know. Like it or not, all is as it had to be because even if I had heard these things, I wouldn’t have obeyed any way.
Not only do we hear the unsaved world demanding justice, the church stands shoulder to shoulder with them in their demands for it as well. We are yoked to the world in our attitude in many ways, but for purposes of this article, I’ll only mention our insatiable need to “get to the bottom of” some situation.
The world uses the word “revenge” while the church, wanting to appear a safe haven from such a thing does the exact same thing. We just use a religious sounding word to make it appear holy, right, true and justified. The world says “revenge”, the church piously says “confront.”
I’ve learned to loathe the word “confront” due to the fact that I’ve seldom seen it being done for the sake of “restoration.” It’s worldly and selfishly comforting to just go to some errant brother, unsheathe the “sword” and hack him into little pieces and honestly expect him to want to stay around and what’s worse is that if and when we do see him at church, we pride ourselves for having been the one “God used” to confront the man.
The truth of the matter is, however, that although the Lord is “in” us, He will not partake of a conversation which is solely for the purposes of confrontation when the heart of the man confronting some one cares little or nothing about restoration. Restoration in the errant brothers fellowship with the Lord, first and foremost and then with his fellow believers is the only time the Lord labors with us. Say what you will, I slight no one for having a wrong opinion; God knows I’ve had my share of them.
But, I am writing this to spare you the heartache I’ve known over the years because of all that I hadn’t known. I see no reason for any to suffer as I have. There’s enough in the world around us which causes grief and if I can tell my story and you honestly learn from me, perhaps then grief (though unavoidable) will be confined to fewer sources. In other words, if I can keep you from hurting yourself the way I have, then I have done well today.
My wife and I have had our share of difficulty. Most of it (perhaps even all of it) I have authored. As a gentle gal she cherishes peace but as the “man of the house” (a term the scriptures never use and neither should we, I just write it as such as I know you’ll grasp what I’m saying), I cherish truth.
Parenthetically, brothers, we are not to hold the attitude of being the “man of the house,” it’s a worldly term and one which promises to be nothing more than land mines subtly placed in the living room, kitchen, bedroom and dining room of our houses and woe to the person who accidentally steps on them. Little wonder believers stagger into the counselor’s office wounded, bleeding and looking for someone to remove the religious shrapnel from their heart.
Set that aside for now. After just a few meetings with a counselor it occurred to me that a great deal of counseling would (and perhaps should) be cancelled, in fact, the appointment doesn’t have to be made. If you’ll just take the time to read this and then honestly, sincerely seek the Lord about what I’m telling you today, then maybe you can call the church office and lighten the pastor’s load, cancel your appointment.
I have learned that most counseling sessions are little more than two people trying to recruit someone (the counselor) to join their army. To put it in a different, and more piercing light; most folks who go to counseling have no intentions of obeying the Lord, they just want someone else to agree that their spouse should. Our idea of Homeland Security is getting someone in authority to side with us, agree with us that our spouse is the worst sinner of the two of us and they (not “we”) need to change.
In short, I’ll share my “nutshell” version of these last two paragraphs; Counseling is typically two people trying to convince one person why their spouse has to submit while they are free to live as they choose.
Or worse, and this is where you’ll see the serpent in the garden, a man may imply (and brothers, we can imply a lot) that he really wants to love his wife as Christ loved the church, but she’s impossible, so “Mr. Counselor, could you force her to change so I can obey the Lord?” If you don’t see the serpent in Eden in that scenario then allow me to tell you about the counterpart, its twin;
“I really want to submit to him,” she begins tearfully “but you don’t know him the way I do, so would you share a few verses to show him he’s wrong. Force him to change so I can obey God, will you? Please?”
Now, I’ll admit there have been times of war in my house and being much more skilled in the Word than my wife there have been more times than I care to admit where she has been “sliced, diced, dissected, disemboweled and circumcised” as I (ugh) honor God by getting to the truth of the matter. If you want the suffering and sorrow in your own home to continue, then stop reading here and I assure you, it will. In a civil war, no one survives. If you really want her (or him) to walk out the door, then quit reading right now, they will. God, be merciful.
Mercy, indeed, and that is the purpose of this article. Nothing but His mercy has kept that man, that woman by your side for this long. Don’t dare think or assume it’s because of some bit of human ingenuity or clever theology which has kept him/her there. Give God the glory.
It’s taken quite some time for me to realize what my pastor has been saying is true. (A past experience causes me to thoroughly investigate any man’s claim, especially when it comes to the Word of God.) As Jon has so often said; (paraphrasing) “The Old Testament is the picture book for the New Testament and since we’re more like children than we like to admit, we need pictures, illustrations we can see so the teachings are clearly seen.”
There are many illustrations in the OT regarding mercy and truth. Remember, my wife prefers mercy and I prefer truth. But, you cannot have one at the expense of the other. But, you must have more of one than the other. You may want to fasten your seat belt right about now, because what I am about to tell you will run cross grain to most everything you’ve heard in church.
“When it comes to truth and mercy, always choose mercy, put the truth away and never look at it again.” Listen carefully here folks. Put the truth away and never look at it again. What? Are you suggesting we ignore the truth of God’s word and prefer mercy instead?
If you haven’t been able to see the “mercy of God” in His Word, then yes, that is precisely what I am suggesting. His Word to us is the word of mercy, of reconciliation. If all you can see is truth for truth’s sake but haven’t seen His mercy toward you in His Word, then you may want to reconsider your entire life.
To read the His Word to us and overlook His mercy is, I believe, the primary reason there are so many Christians filing for divorce, suing brothers/sisters in court and families lying wounded, bleeding and dying in this civil war (How can any war be “civil?”) Why are we so surprised when our children walk away from us and from God? Who in their right mind would walk into a battle zone?
1 Samuel 6:19-
“Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.”
Well, that was abrupt! Yes, and intentional. Notice in this verse nine words in particular. “they had looked into the ark of the Lord.” What was inside the ark? The Ten Commandments. But, what did these people have to do in order to “get to the bottom of this”, to “get to the truth of the matter?”
For these men to get to the law, the hand written word of God, they had to remove mercy. Mercy was in the way. The mercy seat had to be removed. Now, tell me, do you really want to insist on truth only, or will you consider the truth about mercy?
God’s word is truth, but even He will not forego mercy at the expense of truth. It’s His very nature to be both truthful and merciful. We tend to separate one from the other, but He is holy (whole) and keeps mercy and truth equally and abundantly. As His sons and daughters, who claim to have a desire to “be like Him,” I think it’s high time we consider the ways in which we’ve mishandled the “sword of the Spirit,” bloodied our own, slaughtered our children and foolishly expected the world to “want what we have.” (I’ll admit it, when I hear sermons taught where the people are told to “make the world want what we have” I look around and say “good grief, people, we don’t even want what we have.”)
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James is telling us, but how can we apply that to our lives today? You won’t have to wait too long for the answer. I assure you that even today you’ll be given the opportunity. Someone is going to “sin against” you and then you’ll see. It may even happen to you while you are reading this.
Within minutes some one is going to break a commandment, either against you or against another and true to (religious) form, your first reaction will be to confront them about it. We’ve been theologically programmed to act immediately in these situations. I agree with this, but what I’m learning of late is not “that” we do it, but “how.” (I do however question the need oftentimes for such haste and am learning not to “react” but to respond, not to man, but to God, saying “Lord, what, if any thing at all, do you want me to do about this?” Many times I’ve heard Him say “Hold your peace.”)
I’ve sinned against God and my wife and my wife has sinned against God and me. If the day comes when neither of us sin against the other, I’ll write a book no one will buy because it will be cover to cover lies and even if it were true, no one would believe it.
For too long I said to her “we need to talk this through” when what I really meant was “I need to show you absolutely every verse which will prove that I am right and you need to apologize to me.”
If you want death to creep slowly (as a man sows, so shall he also reap) into your marriage, your home, your job and your church, then all you have to do is “get mercy out of the way.” Just remove the mercy seat; the blood covered, angel adorned (and guarded) mercy seat out of your way and look into the Law and I promise you, you may get to the truth, but you’ll die in the process.
It is the slowest and most painful death there is, but rest assured you and all those around you will experience the exact opposite of the abundant life. It will happen so slowly that you won’t even see it coming, but like Lazarus, give it time and you’ll smell it. The sweet aroma of incense (prayers) will slowly dissipate and your heart, home and place of employment will begin to stink.
It’s not a matter of “if” someone will sin against God or you; it’s only a matter of when. Give it about an hour or so and they will. But, before you rise up in judgment, remember this;
Every one of your sins were forgiven before you committed them, which means they were all “future.” There isn’t a single sin you have done, are doing or going to do that isn’t already forgiven. Jesus Christ paid for them all. Don’t remove the Mercy Seat to look at them. Indeed, Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Don’t continue to believe that you are the sole recipient of mercy and that you have been “called” to minister truth to your wife, brother, children or pastor. If the reason for your insisting on their keeping the commandments is something other than their being restored to fellowship with God and man, then don’t be surprised when the stench of death wafts through your own soul.
In conclusion, we are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace” for what reason?
To obtain mercy. You can’t give what you don’t have and if all you have is the Law, you do well to avail yourself of that throne, His throne and ask Him “Lord, be merciful to me!”
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
What makes the Gospel “good news” is that I don’t have to “remove the mercy seat” to get to the Word, the Law. The Word of God is His mercy and this is seen in none as clearly as we see it in His Son, the living Word, and the Word made flesh. Those who have sinned against you are forgiven, remember that and forget their sin.
Oh, one more thing, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love keeps no record of wrongs” so when I find that I just can’t forget my wife’s sins I don’t talk to her about the sin and expect her to make it right.
I have been learning to go to the Lord and say “Lord, your Word tells me that ‘love keeps no record of wrongs’ and since I can’t forget her sin, I ask you to be merciful to me for not loving my wife. If I truly love her, I’ll forget the sin.”
It’s not the sin that needs to be brought up again and again, it’s His mercy. Resurrected sin won’t smell good no matter how many times you bring it up from the bottom of the “sea of forgetfulness.” Wouldn’t you agree?