Mercy - It's Not Your Call

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 10, 2013 0 comments

Doesn’t it just drive you absolutely crazy when people try to get involved in your personal matters that are none of their business? It may be that person at work who seems to have radar for when you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else and immediately comes to your office or cubicle to be “included”. Or, if you are a teenager, it may be your parent who constantly wants to know what’s going on with your friends and any potential dating partners. Even if neither of those two situations is common to you, we all certainly have people in our lives that have to be the center of attention and seem to create chaos so that they can either drag you into their business or intrude on yours. Regardless of which circumstances or people represent this frustration in your life, we all have times when we just feel like saying, “That’s none of your business”!

The truth is that there are some areas of life where we all stick our noses in someone else’s business. One of those areas is definitely mercy (it could also be described as the realm of “judgment”), and the “someone else” in that case is God! As I mentioned in a previous post some months ago, this reality was made clear to me by a very gifted counselor that I spent 2 weeks with out in Buena Vista, Colorado in October 2011. It was in a group session and he was teaching about forgiveness and anger. He taught that one of the keys to learning to truly forgive and let go of the need to “punish” somebody for wrongs done to you is accepting that judgment is God’s domain. By that same logic, mercy is also HIS domain. We tend to see mercy and judgment as opposites, when in reality mercy is simply the favorable side of judgment. When we are judged for a particular action or word, we either face unfavorable judgment (punishment) or favorable judgment (mercy).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that there are certain times in life when we seem to have the power to determine whether punishment or mercy is shown. If you’re a parent, teacher, or law enforcement officer, you certainly know this. And as Katie stated in Monday’s post, we have a God-given responsibility to show mercy when possible because we have been shown mercy by God. But when I declare that mercy is God’s domain, I’m talking about mercy in the bigger picture. I’m talking about when we hear about ruthless criminals and desperately want them to “get what they deserve”. I’m talking about those times that you have refused to forgive someone because you just can’t bear the thought of that person “getting away” with whatever he or she did. I’m talking about when you look around at those who are wicked in your opinion and get angry about the fact that they appear to be prospering. It’s in those situations that we can only find true peace if we accept what is God’s call and not ours!

There are two examples of this in Scripture that I want to draw your attention to, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. In the Old Testament, one of the so-called “minor prophets” was a man named Jonah. If you know nothing else about Jonah, you may recall him as the one who was swallowed whole by a very large fish if you attended Sunday school as a child. But there’s a lot more to his story and I encourage you to read the Book of Jonah, which is only four short chapters. To summarize it for you, the reason he ends up in the fish in the first place is because he runs away from God’s command to go to the very wicked city of Nineveh and warn them of God’s coming wrath. He asks to be thrown into the sea while on a ship in a ferocious storm because he knows his disobedience is related to the storm. God provides the great fish to swallow him and then vomit him onto land to give Jonah a second chance. With his second chance, Jonah obeys God and preaches to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh repent, and “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10).

You’d think everyone would be happy, but Chapter 4 tells us how Jonah got angry with God because He had shown the people of Nineveh mercy. Clearly, Jonah wanted these people to get what was coming to them, especially after he proclaimed it was coming. I mean, his reputation as a prophet was on the line. Plus, he went through some trying times just to preach a message that, in his eyes, ended up being pointless. Jonah’s anger was toward God because Jonah stuck his nose in God’s business, the business of mercy. God asks Jonah twice if he really has any right to be angry about this. It’s a legitimate question for all of us. Jonah was put in a position where either he would surrender his need for control to God or he would become consumed by trying to “play God” in regards to the people of Nineveh. The story ends with an unanswered question and we never do see what became of Jonah. I believe that is intentional because God knew how we struggle with the same thing and knows that we must answer the same questions Jonah did.

In the New Testament, Acts 8 and 9:1-2 tell us about the persecution of early Christians and how one of the key figures who carried out the persecution was Saul. However, later in Acts 9, we read about the miraculous conversion of Saul after he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. Within days, the murderer and Christian persecutor Saul is transformed into the Apostle Paul, and “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (9:20). Imagine being one who had been imprisoned or maybe even the relative of one who had been killed at the hands of Saul. How would you feel if the man was suddenly “saved”? Any Christians that would encounter Paul from then on would have to deal with the same thing Jonah did, with it possibly being even more personal for them and Paul than it was for Jonah and the people of Nineveh. They had to “let go and let God” when it came to Paul’s judgment.

The problem with sticking our noses in God’s business is that we see only a very small part of the big picture, whereas God sees it all. Some of those early Christians may have felt that forgiving and accepting Paul would be letting him get away with what he had done. But in reality, Paul experienced great consequences and suffering for the rest of his life. He was beaten and flogged many times, imprisoned, tortured, falsely accused, threatened by many, and despised by the ones he once believed were his friends. So, whether the other Christians recognized that God was in control of Paul’s judgment or not, He most certainly was!

Despite all that he went through post-conversion, Paul was still able to point out God’s great mercy in his life. Not only that, but he also understood the reason for it. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). I share those verses to challenge us in the way we view others. When someone hurts you personally, or when someone carries out a terrorist attack and kills thousands, or when someone marches into a school and guns down innocent children, our view must not be to seek revenge. Our view must be to simply show mercy in the ways that we can, and then trust God for his ultimate judgment of these people. I mean, you never know. You might be desperately waiting for an evil enemy to get what he deserves, while God is simply pardoning, transforming, and preparing that very person to be the one who will carry His holy name to many peoples. Trust God for the mercy and judgment that are already His domain anyway, so that you will never be stuck in your anger while the very person that you are seeking to punish is actually receiving blessings from the Lord!