“Sensible people, of course, should need only about thirty seconds of careful thought to realize that getting off scot-free is the only way any of us is going to get off at all. But if all we can think of is God as the Eternal Bookkeeper putting down black marks against sinners—or God as the Celestial Mother-in-Law giving a crystal vase as a present and then inspecting it for chips every time she comes for a visit… well, any serious doctrine of grace is going to scare the rockers right off our little theological hobbyhorses.” —Robert Farrar Capon
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One of the strangest things I’ve experienced as a pastor is when good Christian people want to meet with me in order to let me know they are concerned…
We believe in grace and all that, but we think people need to hear about judgment too.
We feel like we’re not hearing enough about sin.
These meetings leave me feeling like I’m in some kind of Christian Twilight Zone where things are bent, strange, confused, and freaky.
I don’t even know where to begin.
You believe in grace and all that, but…? Are you sure you want to put a “but” after grace?
You feel like you’re not hearing enough about sin…? For the sake of clarification, are you most concerned for yourself—that you need to be called out for the sins you’re currently struggling with, or are you concerned for others in the church—who, in your opinion, need to be called out for the sins they’re struggling with?
The freaky-Twilight-Zone part of these meetings is that they’re always concerned with the sins of other people.
They’re never asking for sermons on spiritual pride. Or on being judgmental. Or on greed or gluttony or laziness…
Oh, the irony.
I have come to recognize that my reactions to the evil I see in the world are rarely in the proper proportion, are rarely aimed in the right direction. Too often, I wield my righteous indignation like a toddler driving a tractor that’s pulling a plow through a field ready for harvest, destroying the fruit and the weeds alike. I want to be less ruinous. I want to cultivate more. —Shawn Smucker
Pope Francis, in his book The Name of God is Mercy, says:
The church does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, she takes care of them, she makes them feel loved.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this… “Mercy is in reality the Gospel message; it is the name of God himself, the face with which he revealed himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ.”
Mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God’s giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said he came not for the healthy, who do not need the doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say that mercy is God’s identity card. God of Mercy, merciful God.
The love of God exists even for those who are not disposed to receive it: that man, that woman, that boy, or that girl—they are all loved by God, they are all sought out by God, they are in need of blessing.
Be tender with these people. Do not push them away.
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger…
He came to put the world right again. —John 3.17