Mercy and Justice Leave the Comfort Zone~ a new look at Easter
*Republished from my old blog
When I read the Word, sometimes I see 2 very different Gods. But because I am a Christian, I often gloss over the side of God that I don’t like.
Yep, you heard me- I admitted it- “a part of God I don’t like”
If you’re honest with yourself, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
You’ve come across those verses in the Old Testament where God is harsh and cruel and unrelenting in his anger. You've skimmed over them, or speed read through them as quickly as possible. You might have even flipped your Bible to a safer New Testament spot just to make you feel better.
I mean, really, that CAN’T be the same God that is all loving and wants to be our friend.
Logically we conclude, “Well, that was God, not Jesus!” Jesus is my friend. :)
And we start singing kumbaya. ♪♫
In the meantime the God of the Old Testament remains in the back of our mind as the authoritarian Father figure that none of us really wants to have a relationship with, let alone to mimic.
As a proud Jesus follower I've found it much easier to stick within my comfort zone picture of God and just focus on His love and grace all the time, rather than take a long hard look at “that” side of God that made me squirm.
But as I approached Easter this year, a strange question began to rear up within me that made me really uncomfortable.
(and if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that change happens OUTSIDE of your comfort zone!)
So here it is… fully uncomfortable:
“What kind of God requires a blood sacrifice for sin anyway?”
Normally, us proper Christians look at this monumental moment in our faiths history as the ultimate example of love and sacrifice. We ache for the result of all our sins cast upon the innocent shoulders of a perfect son of God. We sing songs to thank Him for rescuing us, washing us clean, and making us white as snow. Deep inside we’re breathing a sigh of relief as our punishment takes the form of stripes on His back.
(whew… boy am I glad I didn’t have to pay for my own sins!)
But truth be told, God didn’t just send his son to die for us. God required blood as payment in the 1st place.
Am I the only one to question this?
Am I the only one willing to admit that sometimes- I don’t think He’s very nice.
When I have thoughts like this, the best thing I know how to do, is take it straight to Him.
(Did you know, it’s not only possible, but actually a sign of maturity, to still be glad to be with someone that you’re upset with or in a disagreement with?!)
Asking God “why?” seems to be the trigger word for the Holy Spirit to show up quickly and show me where I might be wrong. This time was no different.
When I sat down to ask Him why He needed such a sacrifice, the 1st thing I had to do was admit that I’m not fit to be the judge of Him. My “why” showed up in a judges robe, with a gavel ready to pound in judgment against God.
Right after realizing that, and admitting it, He was quick to show me a new perspective. (by the way, that’s called repentance)
In a flash, He showed me centuries and centuries of victims crying out. Abused children, raped women, pillaged towns, murdered sons, atrocities piled on top of atrocities. It went on and on until I couldn’t bear to look anymore.
And then I saw a Father- whose children were hurt and bleeding and crying out for justice.
I empathized with this Father deeply- if one of my children was hurt like these millions had been hurt- I’d be the 1st one to call for the death penalty. I wouldn’t even think twice about it.
Maybe, just maybe, blood is the penalty- the justice- that all the victim children demand even from their graves.
This doesn’t make God a “mean, harsh and cruel God”.
This makes Him- perfectly understandable.
Easter- the cross- is just as much a story about justice as it is about love and mercy.
I think about those that hurt me when I was a child. And I see a Father up in heaven poised to get revenge for my sake. I feel a sense of relief- and finality in this moment that I’ve never fully realized in the past along my healing journey.
This protective Father God satisfies a war cry deep within me that I wasn’t conscious of before exploring this God of the Old Testament that the prim and proper Christian girl didn’t really like much before.
And then Jesus is there- carrying that cross. Beaten, bloodied, bruised, and taking the brunt of all that revenge. A combination of nausea and relief almost knocks me down.
This time I recognize my own sin putting Him on that cross.
This time I’m not the victim demanding justice- now I’m the accused- guilty- and all my failures are exposed before God.
I am deserving of this “justice” that I cried out for in a different breath.
Then my Father is there. My loving Father who wants nothing more than to end all this suffering. He comes up with a way to satisfy His love for his children- both the victims and the guilty- all in one fell swoop.
The cross (justice)
His son (mercy)
Mercy and Justice come together.
The entire story from start to finish is a God who loves. God and His son- are BOTH expressions of love that overwhelm me.
I have a new understanding now of the One True God, not 2 distinctly different Gods- not a God who changed over time- but the one true God who loves- with a stronger love than I can ever comprehend.
A God I can love in return wholeheartedly- without ever needing to gloss over the parts I haven’t yet learned to understand.