I am one small, finite, little-hearted, mortal human being, and my capacity for mercy toward others is really pretty meager.
The God who created all things, and whose language is that of infinitude, is not like that.
Let’s say you embezzled a hundred thousand dollars from an employer – knowingly stealing what wasn’t yours. Or you destroyed the reputation of a co-worker through gossip. Or you regularly lashed out in anger at those around you because of your petty and selfish heart.
Or you commited adultery – repeatedly. Or you curse(d) God on a regular basis. Or you were/are a card-carrying racist. Or you beheaded Christians in Iraq.
The zealous Jewish Pharisee Saul, who became the apostle Paul, was such a Christian persecutor. Yet Jesus Christ reached into his heart and turned him God-ward, forgave his sins, and gave him the commission to carry the gospel to the far reaches of the Gentile nations.
Scandalous mercy, that. How could such a murderous sinner find compassion from an offended and holy God?
Or how could good King David, having experienced all the rich blessings of God, turn around and commit adultery with Bathsheba, and try to cover up his foul deed by having her husband Uriah killed?
“God has taken away your sin,” said the prophet Nathan, once David woke up from his sin-soaked stupor and repented. Oh, David had to live with the consequences of his actions, and he experienced the sting of them for the rest of his days.
But where we might have given up and cried out for only justice, God’s heart swelled with both justice and mercy.
Justice carried out by substitutionary atonement – the death of one to cover the sins of another. The Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world.
Mercy to receive back the transgressor – even, as the apostle Paul called himself, the chief of sinners. Yes, even your sins and mine. All of them. No matter how foul.
We cannot be severe enough in our assessment of our own scandalous state. We are all sin-infused hypocrites (thank you for the reminder yesterday, Scott Sauls). But God’s mercy is an ocean, not a puddle. Forgiveness even for THAT? Even for ME???
Yes. God is big enough to cover you. He’s got this.
Scandalous mercy for scandalous people. That’s the good news.