by Howard Hain
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…
When we are truly merciful, or at least sincerely try to be merciful—to see others and their deeds through the eyes of the Ever-Loving Eternal Father—there often is an unholy fear that takes place. This fear is not the fear of God. This fear is not from God.
No, the fear of God—the good and righteous “fear of the Lord”—a gift of the Holy Spirit—is not the fear to which I am referring. Let us make that perfectly clear. Absolutely not. That fear—the good and righteous “fear of the Lord”—is a great grace and is actually what prompts us to be merciful toward others in the first place.
The fear that I am referencing is superficial, like all fear other than the only fear we should ever have, “the fear of the Lord.” Whether this superficial fear comes from the world, from our own weak flesh, or from Satan, is not very important. For what we need to know and always remember is that this superficial fear is not of or from God.
It is the fear of being accused. Accused of condoning. For when we see others with true mercy we no longer merely look at their acts, no matter how sinful they may be. No, we see first and foremost a person. More so, we see a child. A child who is frightened. A child who is running a high fever. And no one with any heart at all, even if it be a calloused and somewhat hardened heart, wants to punish a frightened or feverish child.
No, no matter our maternal or paternal instinct, or lack thereof, the truly human instinct is to hug. To help. To hold. To heal. To alleviate the fear and burning pain.
But without God’s grace we too often, almost always in terms of statistical significance, do not see a child.
We only see a person who has harmed our world, our society, our way of life, our order, our peace.
We only see a person who—no matter how indirectly his or her actions might affect us—has harmed us and our families personally, and we along with the rest of the mob want justice.
A conflict takes place.
God’s perspective versus the world’s. A frightened and sick child versus a criminal who must be punished. Mercy versus justice.
But the conflict isn’t real. God not only loves justice too, God is Justice. And he sent His Only Begotten Son as expiation for the great injustice of mankind. Our kind. Our sin.
For God to only see the need for punishment is for God to deny His Only Begotten Son. That is not going to happen.
So the next time you feel the desire to be merciful—the need to be merciful—even toward the most “obvious” and “blatant” sinner do not give into the temptation. The temptation to fear. The fear that you are in some way condoning the sinful action because you are refusing to demand immediate and absolute punishment, a punishment that “fits the crime.”
No, say the Lord’s Prayer.
You are on God’s side. God is being merciful through you. And no matter how intimidated you may feel, be “firm and steadfast” in God’s love and mercy.
For you too love justice. You too love Jesus. And Jesus is Justice.
Jesus is Living and Breathing Justice.
And it is through this very person, The Person of Jesus, that “mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:11)
Praise be to God.