When I think on the goodness of God, it reminds me of the word “mercy,” and yet in so much more depth than the traditional meaning of mercy.
Just what does “mercy” mean? If we go to most dictionaries, they will tell us traditional definitions of “mercy.” The explanation would go something like this:
“Mercy means to give kindness when it is not deserved.”
And that definition is indeed an accurate one. But I feel that mercy – at least when we speak of the goodness of God – is so much broader.
Just as a judge has the power to stop a pending punishment or to actually pardon someone for an earthly crime, so too does God have the power to pardon us for greater offenses than even earthly tribunals might consider.
But He only does this because His Son was willing to come and pay for our sins. Jesus Christ was whipped, scourged because we have sinned. He bled and suffered deeper than eternity can tell, in the Garden of Gethsemane, because of our indiscretions. He was nailed to a cross because He loved us enough. He loved us enough to cross the threshold of death and then return, so that we might do the same.
So does a simple definition of “mercy” suffice for me? It can’t come close.
For all the times my God has given me evidence of His divine caring, my heart soars. And yet in the same moment, I am overcome with grief that because of me and my mistakes, His Son suffered.
Yet this was the eternal plan. God would create an earth for us so that we, as His children, could be tested. We would prove that we indeed valued the things of God greater than the dusty things of mortality. But walking here, we (and He) could see that we would make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes would be grave ones, ones called sin because of their serious offensive nature before Him.
It was because of this that there was a need for a Savior to compensate for our shortfalls. This is why the Savior Jesus Christ is so often called the Redeemer of the world.
Think of the word “redemption” like this: when you receive a coupon in the mail, you have the option of returning it to a store to “redeem” the item offered. But it is all choice-based. The offer of Jesus Christ to us from God Himself is very similar. The intensely priceless “coupon” of eternal life is given freely to us. It is up to us to decide whether we grasp that coupon and effectuate the offer, or whether we throw it away carelessly.
This is why, when I hear the term “mercy,” for me it is so much greater than a simple act of kindness, like so many assume. For me, the word mercy has such depth it is difficult for me to articulate its meaning. The goodness of God is manifest by the gift of His Son; what an amazing extension of God’s goodness that is!
This post was originally published in January of 2008. Minor changes have been made.