“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever wondered how and why our God could be such a merciful God? Perhaps not. Perhaps you’ve wondered more often why God seems like such an angry God. If that’s the case, you haven’t been taught very well about the character of God. That’s not your fault. It’s a symptom of our culture.
In days past, though, when people were taught to think differently about God, many more wondered at His mercy. If we are as sinful and rebellious a people as we seem to be, why doesn’t God just wipe us out? Or, don’t make it about yourself. Consider the case of Israel. They blew it constantly. And rarely did they blow it in small ways. And yet, every time they showed movement in God’s direction–however slight it may have been–He was ready to take them back on the same terms He had offered them before. What gives? How could He be so merciful to them?
If you’ve ever wondered something like that on behalf of yourself or someone else, Paul gives the answer here. God is rich in mercy because of His great love for us. That’s it? Well, you have to understand love rightly for it to make sense. With the understanding that, far from anything our culture says about it, love is an intentional decision to see someone else become more fully who God designed them to be, God’s great mercy begins to make sense.
If God is wholly committed to seeing us become fully who He created us to be, His mercy has to be great. We blow it way too often for it to be otherwise. If He dealt with us as we deserved, we’d never become who He made us to be. We’d be wiped out before we even made it over the first hill! But, because of His dogged intention to see us become complete in Christ, He keeps giving us chance after chance after chance to move in the right direction.
Now, this doesn’t mean He ignores our failings or deals with our sins less seriously than they deserve. We often face the consequences of our dumb decisions. But, the full penalty for sin has already been paid by Jesus, so if we are willing to move in His direction even in the smallest amount, God is ready to receive us with mercy. In this way, mercy can be seen as a secondary characteristic of God. Love is primary. Mercy comes out of the love. But, then, God is love so that really shouldn’t come as any surprise. What are some of the other secondary characteristics of God that exist because of His primary characteristics of love, justice, and holiness?