Yesterday’s post showed how God used Pharaoh’s skewed perspective of justice to “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart. Some may ask, “What about mercy?” What is mercy?
First, we need to start with justice. When we do something wrong (take a value unjustly), God has every right to move against us because of justice. However, justice DOESN’T determine when God will do it. Justice only states that everything will eventually EXACTLY equal out in the end.
God wants us to wake up and fix our wrong so He doesn’t make us pay for it either in this existence or the next. In order to give us the opportunity to make a change, God allows us time to realize it. However, this time interval is not the same for every person or every unjust act. This time interval is known as “mercy”.
Mercy is the postponement of judgment…but it is only a postponement.
Mercy is the act of allowing an interval of time between the bad act and the punishment. For instance, if God would strike me with lightning the second I did something wrong, that would be an example of little to no mercy. If I instantly punished my kid the minute they did something wrong, this would also be an example of little to no mercy.
If God were to wait years before He struck me for a specific bad act, that would be an example of great (or a lot of) mercy. Notice, justice says the mercy will not last forever. There will come a time when justice will require everything to be EXACTLY equaled out.
However, God can also show His mercy BY punishing us. For instance, if allowing us more time causes us to do worse things, God is actually being merciful by striking us in order to wake us up. If God hadn’t corrected us, then we would have gotten further off track and justice would have required a greater value from us. In the Big Picture and Long Term, we actually would WANT God to punish us now so we don’t face a bigger punishment later.
God allows a period of time because He wants all of us to wake up and compensate for the value we’ve taken to avoid getting punished from Him. Yes, this is uncomfortable. However, in the Long Term, we should want to make things right no matter how much short-term pain we experience.
Before we discuss this process further, this is a good place to cover one of the misconceptions when it comes to mercy: grace. We have already covered the definition of grace. It is charis (“the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life”). However, some people think it is “unmerited favor”. They use the word “grace” interchangeably with “mercy”. Why?
First of all, the concept of “unmerited favor” contradicts justice. The idea is that we get a value from God that we didn’t deserve in order to cover our sin (a value we have obtained unjustly). We aren’t going to get something for nothing. This contradicts justice. People know this…
So, the answer is that while we deserve a punishment, “grace” (unmerited favor) says the punishment never comes. In effect, “mercy” lasts forever. Infinite mercy IS the same as unmerited favor. Both admit we took a value AND both try to put off our ever having to repay that value…even though justice requires it to equal out.
In the coming posts, we will cover how grace and mercy actually follows justice and results in an explanation for salvation that lacks contradiction. For now, watch for people who speak of “grace” and “mercy” interchangeably…they are denying justice.
We saw what happened to Pharaoh when he had a skewed perspective of justice…