March 22, 2021
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…
I remember hearing a preacher talk about choosing to do something wrong, and then thinking God was going to punish him for it. “I figured God was going to make me break my arm or something like that. But you know,” he stated firmly, “That is simply not God’s heart at all.”
It’s not? I said to myself.
You know… I kind of thought it was.
We are discussing the dangers of half-truths this week — when ideas that are only partially true are presented as full truth. Throughout history, there is possibly no more pervasive and misused half-truth than the one which claims God pays us back for our misdeeds. If you are suffering, this half-truth promises you must deserve it somehow. You did bad, so you’re getting some bad in return. It’s Karma, it’s payback, it’s an eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth. That’s the way the world works, so you’d better just shut up and deal with it. Right?
It’s true the world does seem to work that way, a lot of the time. We often do suffer the consequences of our actions and choices, and God allows it like any good father would for the long-term learning and benefit of his child. But that preacher was right, God’s heart is not a heart of retribution. Instead, God’s heart is a heart of redemption.
The full truth here is that yes, God is a God of justice, and often allows us to suffer consequences. But God is also a God of incredible mercy and love, who willingly and gladly took horrific pain and death upon Himself so that we would not have to. The full truth is, God doesn’t pay us back for our misdeeds; instead He offers to pay them on our behalf, through His death on the cross. All that remains is for us to either accept or reject this mighty gift.
As we approach our celebration of Easter Sunday coming soon, consider your understanding of what God has done for you. Do you know Him truly as a God of redemption? Or do you find yourself viewing Him more as a God of retribution and payback? How well do you think you comprehend His “steadfast love and faithfulness?”