GOD 101: Forgiveness, Grace, And Mercy
I have a new little wooden box that is sectioned off. It allows me to put small bottles in each section.
I relate to that box. My mind likes to put its ideas in little sections, and organize and reorganize the sections to see how things line up.
Like a kaleidoscope. Each piece standing in its own place, but changeable in its relationship to the other pieces.
There’s a lot in theology and even in our liturgy that I find sloppy. Or is done in such a way that causes a person’s sloppy thinking.
I would like to say, Well, we don’t have to always be exact about things in the church, and mean it. But, well.
That’s just not me.
Yes, I know. People are good-hearted. And they mean well.
But let’s talk about differences.
Forgiveness of another’s sins can be administered by anyone. By everyone. But the fount of forgiveness is God.
As a judge our Heavenly Father does not mete out verdicts of guilty and not-guilty.
Instead, he offers to those who are truly contrite forgiveness. To those who show no care about the harm they have done to others, God merely remains still.
People get confused about this all the time.
When they cry out, Why has God forsaken me? they are mistaking God’s silence for consternation.
People either feel blessed by God or not blessed. And not being blessed by God is a world away from condemnation. It’s just stillness.
A stillness that can just be a time of waiting for you to return to him. Or a stillness that comes from waiting until you just fade away.
Or, even, as in the case of Jesus Christ on the cross, a stillness that is a waiting for what is to happen to come about.
What happens to you in your relationship with God is completely created by you.
In judgment there is only being forgiven or not being forgiven. Which is, again, something that is completely up to you.
Forgiveness is a verb. It’s an act taken. A doing.
It is the mending of the rent in the fabric of a relationship.
A memory that I had the other day made me realize how distinct God’s grace is from everything else in the universe. Almost indescribable.
So many people love to toss the concept about. But the biggest problem is that we understand the concept of gift from our own human viewpoint.
The casserole a neighbor brings over after you get home from the hospital.
A ride to the garage to pick up your car.
All things that can be understood. Accepted.
God’s grace goes beyond the realm of understandability. Of our ability to accept.
It is those acts that confound us. Bring us to our knees. Or into a shocked laughter.
If someone you love is healed after praying for this healing, then the healing is an answer to your prayer.
If something suddenly happens in your world that leaves you scratching your head and wondering, Wait. How did that just happen?
Grace is a noun. And when associated with God only applies to surprising occurrences whose happening have no rational explanation.
In all the sins that ever could exist, all but one can be forgiven by God and man.
But there is that single exception.
A sin that belongs to the realm of the Holy Spirit.
The sinner of this sin cannot atone for it and cannot be forgiven for it.
So cannot go before God the Father.
However, the sinner can receive mercy from the Holy Spirit.
The first definition of mercy is: a compassion shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
A person of authority to whom a guilty person is dragged can show the criminal mercy.
Relieve him of his guilt altogether.
This has been referred to as forgiveness, but it’s not.
There is no mending of a relationship.
The prisoner is just free to go.
No conditions. No punishment. No curse.
Mercy can also be used to describe an act performed out of a desire to relieve suffering, as in Jesus’s seven acts of mercy.
Mercy (both uses) is a noun. It is something given, but unlike grace is not stunning or breathtaking.
It is very mundane.
In the first case, it is a choice made by the authority.
So, forgiveness: a verb, committed in order to repair a relationship between two people or between a person and God.
Grace, a noun, an inexplicable gift from God that has no real explanation except as a tender showing of his love to a person.
Mercy, a noun, either the act of an authority to lift a guilty sentence or an act of kindness to ease a person’s distress.
That is all.
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