I love it when people get what they deserve.
So do others apparently.
“Instant Karma!” the video title trumpets. Scan Youtube or any social media and consider the wealth of uploads portraying people getting exactly what they deserve.
There’s the young disrespectful punk getting knocked out by the old man. An angry dude yells at a woman and promptly walks into a stop sign headfirst. A motorist cuts in line only to get pulled over by a policeman.
We love comeuppance. We gloat. We bask. We tingle inside. We love it when people get exactly what they deserve…
…except when it’s us.
A Deserving Son
We all have that friend with that son, or maybe you have that son, or maybe you are that son.
My friend Ken’s son had been straying for years, decades even. He fell into drug addiction and all that comes along with that. He committed crimes to support his habit, spent time in jail. He impregnated his girlfriend and abandoned his daughter.
But this wasn’t how he was raised.
Ken raised him in a loving, Christian home. He gave him everything—love, discipline, affection, opportunity—and he rejected it all in the name of sin and self. Yet, time and again, Ken was there.
His son would come back from a season of affliction and he’d hire him to work in his shop or help him get back on his feet only to be rejected and betrayed again. Time and again, his son received and then rebelled.
I cannot fathom his sense of betrayal, maybe his righteous indignation, certainly his grief. He deserved so much more.
Or did he?
A Deserving Father
All men receive either mercy or justice.
There is no injustice.
Peter writes for believers, “once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10b) Consider the mercy of our heavenly Father.
In my sin, I rejected Him entirely. I knew there was a God and was therefore without excuse but still I exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator. (Romans 1)
I deserved justice, eternal justice for rejecting an eternal Creator.
But still, in His mercy, He reconciled me to Him by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. God saves sinners. God saved me. I did nothing to deserve it, nothing to merit it. I never could have earned it by any ‘good’ deeds. The only thing I deserved was justice, condemnation…
….but in His mercy, He gave me infinitely more than I ever deserved.
God is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6) I have lived this truth, known it, rested in it. If you are of Christ, you have as well.
My friend Ken lives these truths. He knew exactly what he deserved and in light of that, exactly what he had received—everything!
What could he himself give, but mercy?
No Mercy on the Mountain
Who ever thought mountain climbing would entail moral considerations.
Eleven climbers have perished on Mount Everest during 2019’s climbing season, a record, and why? They perished because of mercy, or a distinct lack thereof.
The world’s highest mountain presents climbers with some unlikely challenges. It takes roughly two months to make the ascent and weather only allows a handful of opportunities around the middle of May.
The last base camp is around 26,000 feet. From there, climbers make a brutal push into the “death zone” and the final summit at 29,029 feet. The one narrow path to the summit, the severest conditions on earth, and the demand for oxygen to survive provide a tiny window to attain the summit and descend. Only the slimmest of margins separates climbers from death.
Severe crowding complicates the issue.
The unscrupulous Nepali government issues hundreds of climbing permits, with no qualifications required, to anyone who can afford the $11,000 fee. Everest is a cash cow and the result is an ascent flooded with people who have no business being on Mount Everest.
This year’s ascent saw a several hour delay to get to the summit, a flat area roughly the size of two ping-pong tables, where climbers jockeyed for position, snapped selfies…stepped over dead bodies. People died waiting in line to get to the top.
Eleven people succumbed to the elements this year, many on the way down. They ran out of oxygen or became too fatigued to continue and collapsed on the path.
Many of them died of arrogance or hubris. Their Sherpas urged them that they were going too slow, that they would run out of oxygen, that they wouldn’t make it, and still they pressed on until collapse…
…and people stepped over them to continue.
If they stopped to help, they might risk their own lives or worse…not make the ascent, not get the selfie from the summit, not be able to say, “I did it!”. Besides, these people should not have been there in the first place. They were warned. It’s their own fault.
They needed mercy, in spite of their faulty actions, and did not receive it.
I wonder if you are as troubled by this as I am.
My relationship with God governs my relationship with people.
My relationship with people testifies to my relationship with God.
What is God’s will for my life? Should I buy the blue minivan or the red one? Should I work here or should I work there? What would God have me do?
I cannot comment definitively on all of these questions. However, the word of God offers explicit commands, expectations God has of His people.
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:26)
“Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5:7)
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, Hosea 6:6)
As God has poured out His mercy upon us and lavished us with love, love that we did not deserve in any way, so too ought we to pour out mercy upon others. We who have been forgiven much ought to, in the same way, forgive much, forgive quickly, forgive often.
Our words, our actions, our thoughts ought to drip with mercy, just as the Bible drips with the mercy of our heavenly Father. And every single human interaction we have is an opportunity to show mercy.
We ought to give that which others need, even if they don’t deserve it. What are you worried about, your rights? Our rights no longer matter. We’ve given the rights to ourselves over to the Lord and as such, can pour out mercy with no regard for self.
Who needs mercy in your life?
A lazy husband. An unappreciative wife. Your needy children. Your incompetent boss. A hateful relative. A gossipy neighbor. The rude dude at the grocery store.
A wayward son.
My friend celebrated his birthday recently by posting to social media a video of him talking.
Amid the ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ and other comments, one stood out. His son remarked, “Happy belated birthday pops” followed by, “I look very bad.”
What would the world say but, “Well man, it’s your own fault”? You had everything, you had a father who loved you. You’ve had a home and opportunity. You are the one who wasted this. You are the one who has walked away from what you know to be right, time and time again.
What did you expect? When will you learn?
It serves you right.
My friend looked at his son and his affliction, his suffering, and responded…in mercy…
I see you as my son!
This is the exact thing my heavenly Father said to me, as I turned to Him in my sin and affliction. May we all be moved to mercy.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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