God's Grace and Mercy at Christmas
This week my experience with the Lord was all about mercy. And I meditated long and hard on a Word from the book of James.
" ......because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.! James 2: 13 NIV
And then in a Bible that has the Word and the inspired word from Saints of old, I found a profound message.
" Teach me to feel another's woe.
To hide the fault I see;
that mercy to others show
that mercy shown to me".
This clear word from the Lord about mercy, then led me to send the two passages above to someone who is a passionate advocate for homosexuals, and with whom I have have had many discussions, not all of them pleasant. So when asked why I had sent this very "encouraging" text message( for a change), my response was that although I had not changed my fundamental position on the issue, clearly God was leading me to feel, and to share in " another person's pain". And not to judge but to reflect the mercy that was shown to all human beings on Calvary. As a result this was the most amicable conversation on this topic that we have had for years, praise God. And who knows what good may emerge!
Then early this morning, on a more personal level, the Lord woke me up to read and to send another note, this time to my pastor, and not from James but from the letter to the Hebrews. Asking forgiveness for any burden which I or other member of the congregation may have caused by our actions.
" Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Then I went to church this morning and the Preacher, in an a amazing display of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of men, took his message from the book of James and a passage appointed for today.
" Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged".
And thus he encouraged the congregation that as we await the Lord's second coming - which is the true meaning of Advent, the period before Christmas - we must be more forgiving of each others " sins", and be less judgmental. Remembering even to bless those who persecute us and to be patient with each others faults, as we are all
" a work in progress".
No doubt this is a timely word for those of us who would " grumble" against our spiritual leaders, for one reason or another. Who might have uncomplimentary things to say, or even harsh things, based on our evaluation of things. And so the church suffers from a lack of unity, and even worse, individuals are at risk for being judged by God, as were those who challenged the authority of Moses in the book of Numbers.
All of this taking place against the background of two reflections included in recent Internet messages, excerpts of which read as follows:
....so severe with my neighbours, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault with.......
.....When we blame with impatience because we are displeased with the fault, it is a human censure and the disapprobation of God. It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love. The more self-love we have, the more severe are our censures. There is nothing so vexatious as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are under the dominion of their own. The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weaknesses, he waits for us. The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others. We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open hearts to receive it. If you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.
Finally, I thought about our Prime Minister who has been the subject of much ridicule, and even anger in recent times over his handling of the Mannatt Phelps Phipps affair and the Dudus Coke Tivoli Gardens debacle. And no doubt well deserved. They have even now labeled him with the inglorious sobriquet - Eli. As one who is a stranger to the truth. But perhaps in this Advent season, as we wait upon the Lord, and ponder the infinite mercies of God wrought on the Cross of Calvary, " even when we were still sinners - all having fallen short of God's glory - we may need to reflect much more on God's mercy and grace. And perhaps not to so judgmental with those who have " wronged us". Whether it be this or any other " imperfect" Chief Servant. And we have had many who have " messed up" and done egregious wrongs, in the midst of doing good things. One of whom is currently promoting successfully a book which reflects his perspective on his legacy to this island. Another became world famous and wrote many a book. Whether it be this or any other pastor, or Bishop or Evangelist. Whether it be icons in the sporting arena, in the professions, in the world of Trade unions, in the Media, in the world of Business. Whether it be our wives or husbands or children, or good friends, or in-laws. As who among us is not in need of God's mercy and grace for having " messed up". And messed up big time in some instances. Praise God for the Gift of Christmas which is a good time to
" have mercy", as this was the sole purpose of Christ's first coming on earth. To reflect the full extent of God's Love and Mercy on His Creation.
So let us resolve to " hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing", this Christmas and remember that " judgment is the Lord's". A song we sang at Carol Service this evening as the Lord continued to speak about His wonderful grace and mercy. And as we continue to reflect that there is much that we don't understand about God's mercy, let us remember His Word.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thy own understanding. But in all thy ways acknowledge him and he will will direct thy paths". And I can hear the haunting wonderful sound of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing, " Order my steps your word O Lord, order my steps in your word.
Finally, finally, demonstrating all of this mercy in the midst of provocation and trials, is only possible when Christ lives in our hearts, by faith and then we would have arrived at the destination that God has planned for all mankind. Which is what His Word says in a profound passage I read this week.
" When evening came,his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water and they were terrified. But he said to them, " It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading".
So this Christmas let us resolve to be willing " to take Jesus into our hearts", for the first time or afresh, and immediately will arrive at our destination, where love and mercy abound.