By Femi Aribisala
This world is a world of judgment. We insist on retributive justice. We send transgressors to jail. We judge offenses. We sometimes even judge God.
But judgment never wins; mercy always wins. Judgment without mercy is of man. But with God, mercy always ultimately triumphs over judgment.
The gospel is the most powerful message in the world because in it God’s mercy triumphs over His judgment. It is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. The gospel reveals a big surprise that is anathema to man. It reveals the mercy of God.
Mercy is when we do not receive the punishment we deserve. With God, nobody deserves mercy. We deserve death but receive mercy.
Therefore, it is a misnomer to say God is a God of wrath. God is love and not wrath: “His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
God is a God of mercy. It is God’s mercy and not His judgment that endures forever: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22-23).
Everywhere we look, we see the mercy of God. Everywhere we look, we see the grace of God. Everywhere we look, we see the love of God.
We see God’s mercy in every disaster. We see it in every calamity. We see it in every accident. We see it in every act of kindness.
Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a great debt. Because he was unable to pay, the master forgave him the debt. But the same servant refused to forgive his fellow servant who owed him some money and had him locked up.
The unmerciful servant despised the grace of God. Therefore, the master delivered him to torturers. But I ask for how long? For how long would he be tortured? He would not be tortured forever because God’s mercy will ultimately prevail.
With God, even the destroyed are redeemed from destruction. Even when it is God who brings about the destruction. God redeems from the destruction that He ordains. (Psalm 103:4).
Judgment is necessary for correction. But judgment is a bad teacher. The judgment of man sometimes worsens the man. He comes out of prison a worse person than when he went in.
But the purpose of God’s judgment is to reveal God’s mercy. It is God’s mercy that melts the heart. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.
Judgment brings correction but mercy brings connection. (Romans 2:4). We love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
God’s justice was not set aside. The penalty for our sins was paid in full. But it was paid for us by Jesus Christ:
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6).
In Egypt, judgment was passed on the Egyptian first-born son. In Christ, judgment was passed on the first-born son of God. By union with Christ, we were crucified with Him. We died when He died. We then rose when He rose from the dead.
Thereby, the Lord upheld His justice while at the same time revealing His mercy. “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10).
Because God’s mercy rejoices over His judgment, Jesus came for sinners. He came to save, not the righteous, of which there were none, but sinners, which was everybody. But those who do not believe in mercy will not receive mercy.
Who would love the Father more: the Prodigal Son, who squandered his inheritance on riotous living, or the faithful older son? Definitely the Prodigal Son because he receives mercy on his return home.
Jesus says of the sinful woman who crashed a dinner party to kiss His feet: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47).
The older brother of the Prodigal Son insisted on judgment. But the Father insisted on mercy.
Christians are the unmerciful servants of Jesus’ parable. They insist the judgment of God will prevail over the mercy of God. They insist God will burn sinners in a fiery furnace for eternity. Nevertheless, they say: “Go to hell” when angry with someone.
They judge the disobedient, forgetting that they were also children of disobedience who received mercy. They forget that nobody deserves the mercy of God.
“For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:30-32).
Thus, Jonah did not want Nineveh to be saved. Jonah was a Jew and the Ninevites were the archenemies of the Jews. Nevertheless, God asked Jonah to preach the gospel to the Ninevites. Jonah refused and had to be compelled.
Likewise, the Jews did not want Gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit. When they learnt that Peter had preached to them, they served him a query. He had to tell them the Holy Spirit is not his to give. It is the gift of God.
God says: “‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:15-17).
Law of Liberty
A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus. Her accusers asked Him if she should be stoned to death according to the Law of Moses. But Jesus said: “Let he who is without sin among you throw the first stone.”
He knew that her accuser were all sinners. If anybody stoned her, he or she would also have had to be stoned to death.
Did Jesus thereby abrogate the Law of Moses? No, He did not. The woman was sentenced to death, but Jesus died her death from the foundation of the world. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:23).
Judgment was passed on the woman, but she was judged by the law of liberty. She was sentenced to eternal life. She was also sentenced to a tutelage whereby she would no longer even have the disposition to sin. She was sentenced to be a partaker in God’s divine nature.
Accordingly, James counsels believers: “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13).