Read: 1 Kings 13-15, Psalm 103, Matthew 14, 1 Timothy 2
GRACE AND MERCY
If grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve, mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. The cross affords both: At Calvary, “mercy there was great and grace was free.”
The real question in life is not “Why do the innocent suffer?” but “Why does a Holy God, with such unattainable standards or purity, allow anyone to live at all?”
The scriptures make it very clear that no one is good; there is no one righteous. We all deserve a tower to fall on our heads; we all deserve our blood to be mingled with pagan sacrifices. This truth comes as a shock to humanity, for we have been brainwashed into believing we are good, innocent, and undeserving of the wrath of God. From the perspective of a holy, majestic God, we are all vile, reprehensible, deserving of judgment and hell.
When tragedy strikes us (or our world), energy should not be spent on wailing “why me/us?” but in marveling that God’s wrath is not fully poured out on me and those around me in greater measure. Earthquakes, wars, tsunamis are all twisted in our minds to question the God who “allows” such things. We should shudder at catastrophe, for the reality is that we deserve it and much worse. God’s mercy is all that stands between me and His justice. God is just to strike humanity, the wonder is that He doesn’t do it more.
Who is this God who does not strike me every time I sin? Who is this God who in grace gives me salvation, peace, joy, love, and His eternal friendship? Who is this God who in mercy withholds sickness, plague, trouble, wrath, and judgment? Who is this God who gives me heaven (grace) and withholds hell (mercy)? Who is this God who gives what we don’t deserve and withholds what we do? Is this God’s usual way of dealing with humankind? The staggering answer to this last question is: YES! God’s character is one of mercy and grace, truth and judgment. God’s mercy holds back His wrath, but both will ultimately be complete, for they are indivisible.
What about the innocent babies? There are none. There is only mercy. Just because a baby black mamba is “cute,” it does not mean the DNA of death is not deeply embedded. Sin is deeply embedded in the human race, latent in even the cutest of newborns. God’s grace gives heaven to those who die before an accountable age–for while we believe in original sin, we do not believe in original guilt. God’s mercy withholds hell from the infants who die before they are able to repent from their sin (inherited and chosen). God is great enough to grant grace and mercy to the undeserving, but let us be under no illusion that no one is innocent, no one deserves grace, no one deserves mercy–not even a newborn. Babies go to heaven on God’s merit, not theirs.