Mercy or commendation

Posted on July 5, 2017 · Posted in Authority, Discipline, Parenting

We humans tend to be quick with our reactions. If we approve of something we are quick to say so. If we don’t – well, we find ways to make that obvious as well. There are exceptions of course, but usually approval or disapproval is immediately apparent. Sadly, we may think that God also is quick to show approval and disapproval. But such thoughts will lead you to misunderstand the character of God and how he responds to your sins and the sins of others.

Psalm 103 has some helpful guidelines regarding God’s response to sin. Look at verses 8-10:

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.”

First, we see that God is compassionate and gracious, he is slow to anger. Secondly, we see that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Both of these qualities set God apart from you and me. We are seldom characterized by compassion and grace. And, we almost always believe that we should treat others as their sins deserve. If God’s response to your sin is marked by compassion and grace, perhaps this should impact how you and I respond to the sins of others. If God does not treat others as their sins deserve, then neither should we. This does not mean that sin is to be ignored. It does mean that God has a different way to address sin than what may seem right to you and me.

How about the way God treats you? The same two principles apply. God is compassionate and gracious. He does not treat you as your sins deserve. You must not make the mistake of thinking that just because you are not immediately punished, that God approves of your actions.

For example, you might be receiving some form of enjoyment or comfort from doing something you know the Bible says is wrong. If there is not an immediate negative consequence to your sin you can be tempted to think God is okay with what your are doing. However, you can’t use God’s mercy as a test to see if you are honoring God or not. You can only safely rely upon God’s written word to evaluate how you should live.

Parents this is an important reality for your children. They may try an activity that they know is wrong. If they experience short-term pleasure, instead of instant pain, they may think everything is cool and continue down a dangerous path.

Teach your children that God is gracious and compassionate. He doesn’t always strike with lightning when they do what is wrong. Help your children to love God’s word and to follow it. His word must be their delight. If they, and you, make decisions based simply on positive or negative outcomes a life of misery awaits.

This is the dynamic that Proverbs 5 teaches:

For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey,
and her mouth is smoother than oil.

But in the end she is as bitter as poison,
as dangerous as a double-edged sword.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.