Tuesday, July 6, 2010
A while back my son got lost. I started to freak out and panic. I was so panicked I started yelling out "Gabe!" Of course this was done in public to the other parents judgmental and derisive looks. Eventually, I found him. I was upset. I've decided some time when we are out I will hide on him so that he feels the panic and fear that I felt. I'll have to think of something else to help him understand the humiliation I felt by exposing my poor parenting to people I don't even know....
Ok, so actually I'm not going to do that. I've already dealt with it with the words I forgive you. Sure, I said some other stuff before those words. But I can and did forgive him because I don't need to have justice in the situation. I don't need to make sure things are fair because I was "wronged." I get a chance to forgive and in forgiveness we find mercy.
These days justice especially social justice is often held up as the highest moral virtue. Maybe Love still holds the #1 spot, but we hear a lot about justice. And I think justice is important and essential and I love that our God is a just God who will judge the evil and hate and all the things that bring about pain in our world. I'm glad for all the ways and chances we have to be involved in bringing justice to broken people and systems. I think the church needs to take a greater stand against oppression and unfairness inherent in America. But I think it is important that we remember a few other things about God and the role of Justice, Mercy and Grace in the redemptive story
Justice is getting what you deserve, what is fair. I have a lot of things that I don't necessarily deserve more than others just because I was born at a certain time in a certain family, had certain opportunities. All things where its not fair that I had an advantage and others didn't and so I want to work to provide fair structures and opportunities for all people. But there is another side to justice, to fairness. I hurt people I love. I get angry and impatient. sometimes people get mad back, but sometimes they can't exact justice and I get away with injustice. We all do. Ask my kids.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve. For all the wrongs that we do we could get justice. God keeps track of them. Some of the people in our lives keep track of them and hold them against us. In reality that is fair, it is just it is right. But there is another way. A way of forgiveness. A way to say, I know you wronged me but I'm not going to hold it against you. That is the story of Jonah. I'll be preaching on it through July and into August. I'm excited to learn more about mercy and God's compassion for individuals, and nations and even animals. And I'm really really grateful for mercy. Mercy extended by God, by my family especially by my wife, by my church and friends. Mercy should be met with gratitude.
Grace is getting what we don't deserve. So basically grace is beyond justice and beyond mercy. It is something that we can't earn. It is something that goes beyond forgiveness. It is something that looks at all our failures and wrongs and the hurtful things we do and say. It sees the times we turn our backs on justice. It says in spite of all that, in spite of the evil in your past and in your heart. I will not only forgive you, I will bless you. When we understand true Justice we can understand the good news. We get to see the gospel and grace for what they are: The true gift of God.