This morning I found myself in Romans 9-11, and I was struck once again by the magnanimous mercy of God. Paul writes something extraordinary:
Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:30-32)
If I am understanding him correctly, God allows us to continue in our disobedience in order that he may show mercy to us. Let that sink in.
A just and righteous God has every right to demand obedience from his creatures, and to execute immediate judgment when we are disobedient. Yet, he chooses to delay judgment because, as Peter declares: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
Do you understand what this means for each of us? We serve One who so wants to be merciful to those he created that he waits until the very last breath of a person to execute judgment. And notice Paul says, “he may have mercy on them all.” No one is excluded from being a desired object of his mercy—not you, not President Trump, not Muslim terrorists, not school shooters. No one is excluded regardless of what they have done. That is how strong God’s desire to show mercy truly is!
After my reading this morning, I spent time thanking the Lord for his abundant mercy in my life, both before and after I became a believer. I have desperately needed it on both sides of that divide. He revealed himself first to me as a high schooler. I was sitting on my bed in my room when this inexplicable warm and peaceful feeling enveloped me. It was the first time I had felt his presence. Then, not long after, I met a young woman who had a heart for God and her lifestyle revealed that. It was something new to me and it was attractive (and so was she!). Thus, began my true spiritual journey and, later, my decision to follow Jesus. He could have left me to wallow in my unbelief and sin, but because of his mercy, he did not.
All along my spiritual journey, the Lord has shown me mercy when I didn’t deserve it. I made some poor choices, yet the outcomes were not nearly as bad as they could have been. My first marriage ended in divorce and the loss of a long-held ministry position, but God saw fit to give me another ministry and a second chance at marriage. I walked and exercised for several years with a defective heart so bad my heart surgeon said I could have easily dropped dead from the exertion. I didn’t. Instead, with a new heart valve, I am in the best physical condition I’ve been in for over 20 years. I could go on, but I will instead just summarize that God’s mercy has been abundant and rich in my life in very small and very large ways.
What about you? Do you see how much the mercy of God permeates your life? If not, then this would be a great time of year to reflect on where he has shown you mercy because he longed to do so.
The question I am asking myself this morning, and perhaps you might want to do the same, is, does the Lord’s desire to show me mercy compel me to want to be merciful toward others, particularly those who have hurt me, disappointed me, or just seem stuck in lifestyles of which I disapprove? Do I long to take the same opportunity for which the Lord longs to show mercy until the moment I breathe my last?
It is a weighty question and one that deserves much contemplation before answering. Perhaps later I will write about what I discovered. For now, though, I leave you with this: God’s longing to show us mercy is demonstrated in these likely familiar passages: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) He came into the world to show us mercy. More than 2000 years later, he continues to do so and longs to do it to the very end of time.
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture references from the New International Version.