The Mystery of Mercy

Yesterday’s post was about the Fear of God, but today spend a few moments meditating on the Mercy of God because God’s Mercy and his justice are never separated. They are two sides to the same coin.

We often tend to think of God’s justice as his punishment for sin. If we’re not careful we imagine that his justice is arbitrary–that he metes out punishments like some sort of celestial drill sergeant. We imagine that the punishment is some vague form of suffering: a smack on the wrist for what we’ve done wrong–maybe even a smack on the wrist in anger. God’s anger.

I don’t think this is what God’s justice is like. Instead God’s justice is built into the system. There are natural consequences of our complicated choices and God’s justice is simply part of the way things work. If you drive your car ninety miles an hour down the road when you’re tipsy and lose control and crash into a bridge abutment the damage to your car and your health is a natural consequence of the choices you made. That’s justice. If you are taken to court for reckless driving and the judge hands you a jail sentence that too is part of the natural justice–albeit one step removed from the immediate consequences.

So it is with God’s justice. It is built into the way the cosmos is created. In fact, I may be standing things on their head here, but I believe it is so built into the system that God only planned his justice as a consequence of creation. So, for example, he created gravity. The consequence of that is if you jump  out of a third floor window you will land on the concrete and break your legs. He didn’t punish you for being foolish and jumping out the window. It was simply the consequence of creation. We bump into things. We’re confused and muddled and mess up. The Bible writers perceive God’s justice as being more actively involved, but I think this is simply their perception of the way things are and their particular way of expressing what I am trying to communicate.

Now this is where it gets interesting because I also believe that God’s mercy is also interwoven with the way things are, and with the nature of his justice. His justice and his mercy are always intertwined. So, for example, when you die if you are not so bad that you go to hell nor so good that you go directly to heaven you will go to purgatory. Purgatory fulfills God’s justice and his mercy at the same time. In purgatory, by God’s grace, you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, but in doing that you are experiencing God’s mercy because he has created purgatory and enabled you to continue the work of sanctification.

So it is with every aspect of God’s judgement in our lives. Read More.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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