Mercy

“Sic ’em, God.”

Far too often I’ve heard one or another derivation of this phrase. Whether in casual conversation or even prayer, it seems we hear people who call out to God to deal harshly with sinful people, cities, or nations. But is this the heart of God for us?

While it is true that man’s sin calls out for the judgment of God (see Genesis 4:10; 19:13, Exodus 22:22-24), we must always remember that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). We are to call out for mercy; we are not the accuser.

The story of Sodom is found in Genesis 18 and 19. While the city was not saved, we see some keep points regarding our relationship with God and His willingness to save many (an entire city) for the sake of a very few (one family). The first show of God’s mercy in this account is in God’s telling Abraham of His plans to destroy the city. This opened the door for Abraham to plead for mercy for the city. Upon hearing God’s plans, Abraham tarries with God and talks with God. If Abraham were like many in our society today, he may have said something like this:

I agree, God… they are a wicked bunch. They go after strange flesh, they’re prideful, wasteful of their time, they don’t help the poor or the needy, and they commit abominations before You… Go ahead, wipe them out (See Jude 6-7, Ezekiel 16:49-50).

But Abraham wasn’t like many in our society today. He never even once mentions their sin. His focus in negotiating with God is always on the righteous. “Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23). “Far be it from you to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). And each time, God agreed with Abraham. He would not destroy if he could find just (50, then 45, then 40, 30, 20 and finally 10) righteous in all of the city. Abraham stopped at ten, but I personally believe he could have continued, and would have found a point at which the city would have been saved. Great evidence of this is found in Genesis 19:22. When the angel of the Lord was rushing Lot and his wife and daughters out of the city, and had given them permission to go to the nearby city of Zoar, the angel said, “Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there”

The angel of God Could Not do anything until Lot was safe. The presence of just one family related to righteous Abraham stymied the wrath of God against an entire city.

Further evidence shows that God will pardon an entire city for the sake of just one righteous. Jeremiah 5:1 says “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; And seek in her open places If you can find a man, If there is anyone who executes judgment, Who seeks the truth, And I will pardon her.” Here, God looked for a man who was righteous, so that He could pardon the entire city on behalf of one man. Grace indeed.

If this is the example of the merciful heart of God in a time before Jesus’ sacrifice had paid the price for the sins of the entire world, we are without excuse if we call for anything less than complete mercy in this present dispensation of God’s purchase of salvation for all who will believe and receive. Yes, we can acknowledge the horror of the sin around us, but just like Christ, we are to “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). It’s not that the stories of society’s sin aren’t true. It’s not that those sins won’t ultimately be judged at the end-time judgment of God (see Revelation 20:11-15). But until that time, our only job is to be Christlike, and to follow the example of the One who always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Christ is the mercy of God presently stymieing the justice of God. He paid the price for the sins of the world. He is the Redeemer. He is the Savior. And “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

But how often do we really behave as if we are representing Christ to this world? It is so easy to just sit back and complain about society, to put down our neighbors and leaders, as if in our flesh we are something better (We are not – see Romans 7:18). Without Christ, we are nothing better than even the vilest of sinful people. Without Christ, we deserve all the judgment and condemnation we attribute to others. But we are not without Christ, and as the redeemed, our only goal regarding judgment should be to save others from the same fate we were saved from ourselves.

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