Have you ever ordered something online only for it to arrive in the mail and be the wrong color or the wrong size? Perhaps a gift you had been sent was broken during transit or the package never arrived in the first place. Undoubtedly, we have all experienced one such horror story or another, or we know someone who has. This last fall, my wife and I received a wedding gift in the mail… around 15 months after our wedding date. Somehow it had gotten lost in the good ole’ system of the postal service. Needless to say, the feelings that come over us when we encounter such unexpectancies can greatly vary. From laughing at a comical inconvenience to having a total complete melt-down, we have difficulty coping with circumstances where we don’t get what we rightfully deserve.
Our response to receiving what we don't deserve depends largely on what it is we do deserve. For example, we all are familiar with the passage in Romans 6:23 that tells us that the wages of sin is death, but for some reason I think we forget the practical picture that this theologically rich verse is painting for us. I mean, I have yet to meet someone who complains when payday comes around. Everyone is happy when they get paid for their work; getting your hard earned wages is a good thing, right? Right. However, receiving your wages doesn't sound so exciting when we’re confronted with the truth of Romans 6:23, because it doesn’t matter how much sin you’ve worked in life… you’re wage is still death. And the smallest dose of death is a grave as the largest… All of a sudden getting we what deserve doesn’t sound so rosy.
And this is where we are introduced to mercy. Mercy is a beautiful term that I think has often gotten garbled together with the definitions of other beautifuls words like “grace” and “forgiveness.” Now, are these term related? Of course. Mercy happens to be one of God’s greatest gifts (grace) to mankind that resolves our conflict with Him (forgiveness). Mercy, by definition, is not getting what you deserve. But unlike the wrong package that came in the mail and caused you a headache, God’s mercy cannot be separated from the gracious purposes of His love. David’s cry for mercy recorded in Psalm 51 show a desperate man who embraces his dependence on our God of Mercy:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
But how could David makes such a cry for mercy? Shouldn’t he be out performing religious sacrifices to make God happy with him? And how could God seemingly omit His justice to make room for mercy? The answer to these questions help us understand the magnitude of God’s mercy that is available even to us today.
So perhaps the next time you open a mail package to find an unexpected surprise or even when you get the wrong toppings on your hamburger, take a moment and think of it as a gracious little reminder of the great mercy of God, that it’s a good thing that you don’t always get what you deserve. Because when we forget the deadly wage of the sin we so willingly indulge in every day, we neglect the immeasurable worth of the mercy we’ve received in Jesus. No matter the stain of sin that you wear, if we cry out to God for His mercy, we can rest assured that His response is “Yes, in Jesus.”
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