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Saginaw, Michigan, United States
A sinner who may come before God because of Christ

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How can we then understand mercy without understanding sin?

In one episode of the West Wing, a show about American government politics, the current President is meeting with an opposition Senator and the talk goes to religion. The Senator says that he was once a church-goer until his wife bought him a Bible and he read it and was shocked at the violence commanded through the punishment of death for adulterers, homosexuals, etc. and that is why he turned away from God.

I thought this was an interesting point of view.

Most agree that the punishment should be weighed with the seriousness of the offense. The more serious and offensive we find something, the more severe and harsher we want the punishment. Misdemeanors are, to society, less offensive than felonies, so fines are less costly and jail time is of shorter duration.

It seems logical then, that what is most “offensive” to God is that which would have the most serious punishments. Therefore, those sins requiring the loss of a life as punishment would be the most grievous ones to God.

The criminal, on the other hand, does not look at his own offense but rather at the punishment, often finding it too severe for the crime.

This is where our culture misses the point.

To the character on West Wing, those “sins” are minor. In modern thinking, they are private matters and should have no offense to society or to the individual because, they ask - what harm is caused by these actions. But in the mind of the Senator (writers of the show), the “sins” were not that serious to them so the punishment appears harsh. Rather than look at it from the God’s perspective, the law-giver, they were looking at it from the law-breaker’s perspective.

How often do we, like that character, ask not “Is this wrong” but, instead, demand to know “Why is this a wrong”?

We (as a culture) theoretically set laws based on the “common good”, but God sets His laws based on His Character – Who He is, perfection. This can best be explained with the concept of silence and darkness.

With noise, silence ceases to exist. With light, darkness ceases to exist. Evil is like darkness, the absence of light or silence, the absence of noise. Bring in righteousness, evil no longer exists. That which is not righteous cannot exist in the presence of pure righteousness (which is what God is). By breaking God’s law (i.e. sinning against God) we have lost our righteousness and can no longer be in God’s presence.

That is why it is wrong, these behaviors and actions violate righteousness. We, who are unrighteous, those who have sinned (who among us has not done something wrong) can no longer be in the presence of God.

That is where Christ comes in. As God in human form, perfect human form, He “took on our sin”, actually, “became sin for us” and took on the punishment. God, in a sense that is hard to conceptualize, actually separated Himself from Himself and, in doing so, brought Himself back together and now, because of what He did, we have our sins against God covered (hidden) from God and can be in His presence. He gave us mercy through His own sacrifice for our sins.

Getting back to the original statement, unless we see our sin, our need for salvation, God’s mercy does not make sense. We are as running around in darkness not realizing we are in dark until we see light and then realize we are in darkness.

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