The other day I was outside in my garden trimming my vine and talking to God. I was telling him about my struggle with religion, in particular the harm inflicted through people. How I didn’t know how to approach it when faced with a person held by the bounds of religion. That I either stayed silent or I spoke out and found myself in conflict. I asked God how he would approach it? His answer was mercy. “Jesus, my son, was and still is a symbol of my mercy”. While Jesus was on this earth, He was God’s very presence with them. Something only obtained through God’s grace and mercy. I paused in my conversation, that wasn’t the answer I expected. I said to God, but not everyone received you. His response was that he still showed mercy. It wasn’t that God was saying that he allows abuse, or agrees with the sin or harm done by others. I have watched Jesus get angry at the harm done to me, I have also seen him in the presence of the enemy and he doesn’t put up with abuse what-so-ever! In regards to sin, I have seen him face my sin, and upon repentance removed my sin as far as the east is from the west. A God who has made a way to remove sin doesn’t agree with it. Sin and God can’t abide together. It inhibits us from being able to enter his presence. Yet here in this moment his answer was mercy. His response confused me, especially as I grappled with the pain in my heart. I realised that I didn’t understand what God meant and I was challenged to try and understand the mystery of God’s mercy more.
Mercy is the “Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” ( Oxford University Press 2018). Jesus died for all the world. He made his love and forgiveness available to all. A forgiveness received by faith. He did this knowing our rejection of him. He even understood that some upon seeing him would still not receive his love or forgiveness.
God’s mercy allows us to meet him. When God spoke to Moses about the Mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, he said it was a place where he would meet Moses and talk to him (Ex 25:22-23). The mercy seat was a place where Moses, a human-being just like us, could spend time with God in his holy presence. Today Jesus blood, shed on the cross, is sprinkled on the mercy seat of God. Everyday God is there at the mercy seat ready to talk with those who boldly approach his throne. Through righteousness, obtained through Jesus, we have full access to God. But how does that relate to the rejection and hurt that I have received in regards to religion?
When I look back at my life I see many areas where God’s mercy has allowed for me to access the transforming love of God. As I reflect on this I also see the ugliness of my sin or even my attitude towards God in that moment. One example of this is found during my time of counseling. The protection system that I had in place meant that I had individual personalities of varying ages and characters. The beauty about this complicated protection system is that I had the privilege of watching God approach every single child in me. His mercy was vital for my healing. He held nothing of himself back and was continually inviting us to come. I remember in the beginning being really confronted by how he could see each person in their entirety. There was nothing hidden. As a person bound in shame this was hard. There were times when he would invite one of us to come and we would refuse, showing him our sin and unworthiness. Other times we were so angry and bitter that we hurled abuse at him. I had alters addicted to fantasy and sexual imagery. I had alters with anger issues, church hatred, men hatred, women hatred, God hatred. Every one had their own identity, rules, likes, dislikes. One alter identified as a princess, another a military personnel, a different one loved the same-sex. I had older children protecting younger children. Some who could quote the bible rote (as an aside, I can no longer quote the bible). As you can imagine it was quite a complex system, riddled with rules, shame, lies, sin and hurt. Yet, every time God approached one of us, he had the same heart. It didn’t matter the challenge he faced he never gave up; he kept pursuing us. He had this amazing ability to see through our veil of sin and see us… me, the one he made. The vulnerable broken one; his greatest prize, me. He saw my beauty, my past and my future. There was no area of me that his love could not reach. God saw me healed and whole. That was why he approached me with Mercy. God had hope for me. He had the answer to my sin, shame and brokenness – His son Jesus.
Jesus, while on earth, kept the focus of his heart on God’s heart/will. He focused on God’s love for the world, and his ultimate desire to restore the lost to him. His heart was to give full access to those who believed in him. He endured the cross because he saw us; he found joy in our salvation (Heb 12:2). He knew the cross would bring our salvation. He knew his Father’s plan, promises and vision and set that as his focus. He had a sure hope. He did this knowing that even after this amazing act of love, some would still not receive him. Jesus understood rejection and experienced it in a deep and painful way. He was so aware of rejection that when he told his disciples to spread his good news (his peace and blessing), he informed them that not everyone would receive it. He taught his disciples that upon this rejection they were to shake the dust off their feet and leave (Luke 9:5). Another words leave with what you came with. To not allow the dust of rejection result in you leaving with damage, unforgiveness and offense. He encouraged his disciples to show God’s mercy, to have the Father God’s joy of his good news, but not to be naive. By telling them how to respond to rejection he was preparing them for the reality that they would experience it. His heart was that rejection wouldn’t be something that would hold them back from continuing what God had purposed. For them to not become entangled in rejection.
I realise now that God’s mercy is like the doorway to heaven. It is rich with God’s love and hope. I will be honest, as a fallible human I find God’s mercy really challenging. I experience rejection and am faced with the harmful effects of my sin and the sin of others everyday. To be like Jesus and continue to show mercy is not something that I can do without his strength. Jesus was and still is God’s mercy to the world. To have God’s mercy, like Jesus, I need to see what God sees. To have his heart. That the focus of my heart would be on the promises of God and his ability to fulfill them. I need to live a life that isn’t naive to the reality of rejection, because I will receive it. My challenge is to live higher, in him and unhindered by rejection. To live a life that is full of his love to overflowing. Where my purpose, identity and focus is on his heart. God is motivated by his love for us. If I am to truly embrace the heart of God, then what comes out of my heart needs to be in love (1 Cor 13) and approached with his mercy.