Brian McLaren: "The Secret Message of Jesus"
Open Discussion: Blog-within-a-Blog (week of March 26th)

Responsible Mercy

Hands006sm_1 In overly simple terms, we experience God's mercy when he chooses NOT to give us what we deserve (in relation to our sin).  This stands in contrast to grace -- receiving that which we do not deserve and cannot earn.

Lamentations 3:22 declares that "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end"

And yet, Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow."

God DOES extend mercy to us -- and it appears that there is an endless supply.
And yet... despite (or is it, in addition to?) his extending of mercy, he also makes sure that we "reap what we sow".

Somehow, God's mercy in our lives does not eliminate or negate God's disciplining of us:

If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them.  Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, be he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:8-10)

There's a tension here.  God is a God of mercy, and yet... he is also a God of justice, and more importantly -- a God of love; for it is his love which compels him to discipline the children he loves.  And we are his children.

Maybe we can refer to God's mercy, then, as "responsible mercy."

Akin to problems associated with "cheap grace", many professing believers seem to take God's mercy for granted.  This weakened understanding of mercy becomes a sort of "license," used to excuse a selfish, self-serving lifestyle.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly disheartened by war and violence, and that continues to affirm the need for peace, many Christians seem disinterested in anything that smacks of correction, judgment, or punishment.  We love the idea of experiencing God's love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy -- but would rather not hear about reaping what we've sown, or of being disciplined by the Lord, etc.

But there's a glimmer of hope.  In today's postmodern world, reductionist either-or thinking is giving way to the valuing of both-and realities.  Maybe, in part, this will help believers to grab hold of God's mercy without turning a blind eye to his justice and discipline.

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I look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights concerning this.

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picture credit: © avisualplanet.com

Comments

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I don't think that God punishes us for our sins, nor do I think that God disciplines us, at least not in the typical way we think. The way that we experience punishment and discipline is by living with the consequences of our choices and actions.

Chris,

I believe we 'reap what we sow' when we try to 'keep the law' or pull ourselves up by our own boot straps.

Jesus told the pharasees that their problem was because they said "We have no sin" there sin remained.

I think that we 'reap what we sow' when we don't stay in a state of constant contact with the Father, hourly, at bare minimum daily giving him our sins.

I Cor 3 does seem to indicate a system of rewards or non-rewards... so there is something to loose in not striving to live progressively what we are positionally.

But the only thing to loose is the gifts that we would lay at Jesus feet..

I'll close with a favorite quote:

"However much we hate the law, we are more afraid of grace" -- Fr. Robert Capon

The way that we experience punishment and discipline is by living with the consequences of our choices and actions.

I agree Benjy, although I think I would state it closer to the way Chris expressed it in his post. There is a personal element to God's discipline, but that is a loving thing, preventing the greater consequences of our sin. If we are seeking God as Seraphim says, the lightest touch of the Spirit should guide us- otherwise, the voice is definitely more stern! Or at least that's been my experience, and I think we see this biblically too. Most sobering of all is the thought that we can quench the voice completely.

How have others experienced God's discipline?

"The way that we experience punishment and discipline is by living with the consequences of our choices and actions."

Benjy, I see this as a partial understanding of discipline. If it stops here, with what you have articulated, then why do we even need God? Gina has raised a good point (above)in drawing attention to the "voice" of God and how it is related to our being disciplined.

Sidepoint: do we really want a sugar-daddy God -- a God who always dotes over us, spoils us, and only has words of affirmation? Do we really?

Sidepoint: do we really want a sugar-daddy God -- a God who always dotes over us, spoils us, and only has words of affirmation? Do we really?

well, we probably do, but shouldn't. I read somewhere that those God love's he chastens. And with what has gone on in my life, just the past few months, He Loved me ALOT!

LYB

Seraphim

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