Random Blog Clay Feet: January 07, 2008
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Show Mercy to All

For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (Romans 11:30-32)

I realize that I jump around sometimes and end up going back to previous passages without any rhyme or reason apparently. But that is partly a result of my desire to keep in mind the context of whatever I am looking at and many times while reviewing the previous context I see more things there that I want to explore and capture. And since I am not bound by any artificial constraints forcing me to keep moving forward on a predetermined schedule I enjoy the freedom to simply allow the Word and the Spirit to say whatever they wish to me at any given moment or on any occasion.

My real purpose in studying and writing what I am seeing and feeling is not to create arguments or convince others of my opinions but to simply document and capture for future reference what I am learning each time. The real purpose is not so much for gathering good information as it is to connect my mind and heart together with the mind and heart of God on an ongoing basis. I am nurturing a vital relationship that brings me life and hope and strength. These studies are mostly about my deepening desire to know God much better, to unmask the lies about Him that I am surrounded by and still find inside of me and have them replaced with the liberating truth of the increasing knowledge about the goodness and true greatness of God. That, I believe, is the definition of His glory.

OK, I got off on a soapbox for a bit. Back to what I want to find in this text. I see something in this repeated phrase about being shown mercy. What I have usually assumed when I read this was that the emphasis was on the people who needed mercy because of their badness. But what I am starting to notice is that the emphasis can just as easily and more importantly be put on the existence of God's unfailing mercy and the revelation of that mercy to anyone willing to acknowledge it.

Paul is bringing both groups he is addressing here closer and closer to each other by showing that the real need of both groups is to perceive and receive (experience the transforming effects of) the mercy of God. While they may have different reasons for needing that mercy they both need to see it much more clearly. Ironically, the religious class of people find themselves inflamed in disobedience because of the mercy that God is revealing to the irreligious class. His mercy and compassion for open sinners and His embracing acceptance of them in spite of their reputation with those who profess to be God's chosen people stirs up jealousy and bitterness in the hearts of religious addicts. But in doing this they end up finding themselves immersed in a state of disobedience just as much as those they look down on.

This is an interesting way that God works according to Paul. What I see here is that a prerequisite for seeing and receiving the mercy of God is to realize and acknowledge our own condition of disobedience and need for that mercy. As was explained in the first few chapters of this book it is much easier to see disobedience in other peoples lives than in our own. Therefore God often has to allow us to experience more of the natural progression of sin in our lives and its painful effects before we are willing to see that we are just as messed up and helpless as everyone else caught in this planet of sinners.

It does not really matter what flavor of disobedience we have or have nurtured throughout our life. We may have a history of open abandonment to living recklessly and playing loose with our life attempting to prop up our hearts with as much pleasure and selfish exploitation as we can pull off. Or we may be the socially proper sinner who looks good to all around us and keeps our pain and problems under wraps in a hardened heart. We may even be “good” and proper church-going folk who have a great profession of morality and work very hard to manage appearances and perform every requirement that we can possible accomplish. We may be very successful image managers to the point that we have even fooled our own minds into thinking that God must be pleased with our accomplishments.

But Paul says that God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Is the primary emphasis here on the fact that all need mercy? That is certainly a real fact and without that mercy none of us would have any hope. But I also believe that even more importantly we need to see God as the ultimate Source of all mercy, One who is the embodiment and personification of mercy itself, not just a Being who chooses to show mercy given the right conditions to select individuals or groups.

The irony that I see in this passage is that it seems that the mercy seen by each opposite class of people is due to the disobedience of the other group. Although Paul is here talking to Gentiles he is speaking about both groups and their relationship to God. You – the Gentile believers who have responded to God's revelation of Himself to you – once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience. In this case the opportunity to see mercy is because of the disobedience of the other group, the unbelieving Jews. Because of the rejection of God's plan for the nation of Israel and their successful demand for a divorce from their supernatural Husband, God, the Gentiles now are given a surprising opportunity to enter into the place vacated by the unbelieving Jews.

In the second case referring to the opportunity of the Jews in this new arrangement, Paul shows the cause of their opportunity to see mercy is because of the mercy shown to the Gentiles. It seems to me that in both cases it is the condition and choices of the other party that causes each to finally catch a glimpse of the mercy of God.

It also becomes clear at this point in the book that even though from our viewpoint the two classes look radically different, that one class looks like they are far from God and the other class appears to be very into righteousness and all that kind of religious stuff, that from God's viewpoint all are shut up in disobedience. And what is the only realistic option for hope by either group of disobedient sinners – to see more clearly the mercy that is being shown them by a revelation of the One who is mercy. It becomes very clear here that God shows mercy to all.

But because God is mercy and shows mercy to all, does that mean that all will see mercy and be drawn into a healing relationship because of that revelation? God deeply desires that that would be true, but sadly very many refuse to believe in the mercy of God. The lies of Satan are very strong to distort the truth about God's mercy and most people insist on believing that God is a mixed bag of both good and evil. They insist on believing that mercy and justice are somehow the light and dark side of God, that they are in opposition to each other in the mind of God and that there is a brooding, angry, vengeful side of God that will someday break out in angry fits of wrath to impose forced punishment on all those who reject His mercy. This is one of the worst lies that keeps sin so tenacious in our hearts and poisons almost all religious beliefs throughout history.

In these final days of the history of the world as we know it, the revelation of God as the embodiment of mercy and love will flood the whole earth. Will the whole earth accept and believe it? Absolutely not! But that does not mean that it will not be made plain. What it does mean is that whenever a person is confronted with the real truth about the nature of God in His purity of motive and the unconditional aspect of His love and mercy, that the choices we make about what we believe about Him will determine the direction we will go and the final destiny we will experience.

If we insist on clinging to our Jekyll and Hyde opinion about God we will perceive everything that transpires before us through that filter and will suffer consequences as real as if what we believed were actually true. When faced with a passionate love that is so intense as to be lethal when not in harmony with it, we will suffer the lethal nature of it precisely because we are unwilling to be in harmony with it, not because there is any motive on the part of God to harm us. On the other hand, if we lay aside our false notions about God and allow Him to transform us through the renewing of our mind and our perceptions about Him, He will reshape our thinking, our feeling, our perceptions so radically that when faced with the unveiling of the real glory of the Father we will burst into the glory of praise and adoration and our beings will light up to resemble blazing suns in the presence of pure love.

Even more importantly, as we assimilate the truth about God's nature we even now become more and more transformed into what we are seeing in Him. As we behold and believe and embrace the mercy of God, both for ourselves and for others, we will discover to our amazement that we ourselves will begin to think and act and feel more merciful. By beholding we become changed.

For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:32-33)

(next in series)