Who bore the blame?

But God is merciful

Psalm 86: 15-16 But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant.

Psalm 56:1-3 O God, have mercy on me … When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, mercy is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” The best description of mercy I know is Psalm 103:8-11:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

Yesterday God’s mercy was the theme of our entire service. Pastor Kevin’s sermon was wonderful, but the music was extraordinary, and I want to share it with you. You can turn them into a playlist or click on any of the links below. Or listen to or watch part or all of the service. “O Gracious Light” begins at 57 seconds. The sermon is 25 minutes-42:30. The second period of worship begins at 56:30.

O Gracious Light” by Andy Clark and Elise Massa: Show me this darkness is not too dark for you.

Each song title is a link:

Lord, Lord, Lord” by Ryan Flanigan: Please restore our trust.

What the Lord has Done in Me” by Hillsong Music: From the heavens mercy streams of the Savior’s love for me

O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship: Are you hurting and broken within?

He Will Hold Me Fast” by Keith and Kristen Getty: I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path … He must hold me fast

We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken: Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed. You are the faithful one.

Love (III) by George Herbert (published 1633)

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat;

So I did sit and eat.

But Jesus faithfully forgives us, by Dick Grady, President of Global Church Planting Network

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to Jesus, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

One of our GCPN partners recently shared this story:

Solomon and his team are training new believers in a region where Christians were martyred just three years ago. Apparently, one of the training participants (we will call him Mark) had a brother among those martyrs. Mark had become a follower of Jesus like his brother, so he fled to a neighboring country, fearing for his safety.

In fact, Mark had traveled back to his home region just to attend Solomon’s training, but he didn’t know two of the men who killed his brother were also attending the training.

The intense time began when he entered the room and the two men acknowledged him, Solomon said. Tears broke out from the two men as Mark fumed with anger and urgency of wanting revenge. The training was put on hold to sort out this hot issue. Mark, a man Solomon knew as peaceful, honest, and strong in faith, confessed he was filled with anger and strong will to make these men suffer just like his brother.

Solomon said it took all night to calm the group. The killers begged for forgiveness from Mark. One of the murderers made this confession:

I understand what I did was wrong. I have no excuse. I have nothing to pay equal to the loss, pain, and sufferings you have passed through. But after your brother’s death, God touched my soul as he did with you and your late brother. I believe in Jesus Christ now; I am a new man!

The killers offered Mark their own lives. After some time, Mark decided to leave the training. It was impossible to convince him to stay, one of the trainers said. He left around 3 a.m. Then at 6 a.m. he showed up again. Mark testified how God spoke to him to learn the power of the cross. Mark said Holy Jesus spoke to him and forgave him.

Solomon continued, He said he had no choice but to forgive these men and learn how to treat them as brothers.

Solomon told me that Mark sat with the men who had killed his brother and joined in the training. They all shared testimonies about difficulties they had encountered since choosing to follow Jesus.

We prepared a lot for the training, Solomon said. But we are now facilitating something we had not planned. We are allowing the Spirit to lead.

But God commands everyone everywhere to repent

Acts 17:24-31 He is the God who made the world and everything in it … He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything … His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. … God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice …

Thanks to my Be the Bridge group, I’ve just read a funny, counter-cultural book called Unoffendable, by Brant Hansen. His thesis is that Christians should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on the planet. He says the idea of “righteous anger” is unbiblical:

“We should forfeit our right to be offended. That means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we’ll be making a sacrifice that’s very pleasing to God. … Actually, it’s not even ‘forfeiting’ a right, because the right doesn’t exist. We’re told to forgive, and that means anger has to go, whether we’ve decided our own anger is ‘righteous’ or not.”

Reading this, my first response is, There’s no way we can achieve this without mega help from God.

God’s hand pouring down blessings Shutterstock: Pemaphoto

Hansen next says, “I sense a lot of people think this idea is stupid, and they don’t agree with me on this. And I sense this because lots of people say, ‘That idea is stupid, and I don’t agree with you on this.’ I’ve got antennae for subtlety like that. I pick up on things.” (Haha.)

Hansen says God can judge, because he is very different from us—he’s perfect. His character allows this. Ours doesn’t (1 Cor. 4:3-5). We don’t know the backstory. He does.

When I worked with sexual abuse recovery groups in Brazil, I thanked God constantly that he is the Judge and not us. Since vengeance belongs to him, as we express our profound pain to him, we can let go our intense desire to see justice done on our own terms.

Unoffendable challenges me, and I’m not sure I’m ready to swallow the whole thing yet. But here are a few more Hansen quotes:

“Anger is extraordinarily easy. It’s our default setting. Love is very difficult. Love is a miracle … We can recognize injustice, grieve it, and act against it—but without rage, without malice, and without anger. We have enough motivation, I hope, to defend the defenseless and protect the vulnerable, without needing anger … Life has become so much better this way” (p. 7-8).

“Gratitude and anger can’t coexist. It’s one or the other. One drains the life from you. The other fills your life with wonder. Choose wisely” (p. 44).

“We have nothing to prove, and when we really believe that, we’ll hardly be quick to anger. When we do get angry, we’ll rid ourselves of the anger more easily. Remember: Anger and rest are always at odds. You can’t have both at once” (p. 59).

“Whenever there’s an injury to a relationship, a hurt, a broken heart, or even a broken thing, and you are willing to forgive, you are saying, ‘I got this. I’m going to pick up the bill for this.’ This is, of course, precisely what God has done for us. … Since anger has value to us, giving it up requires a sacrifice, one that’s simply not optional for the follower of Jesus … (p. 141-142).

“[Jesus offers] a completely different way to live, and it’s one that sets us free from anger, free from guilt, free to really love people, free from constant anxiety, and free to get a good night’s sleep” (p. 143).

“When we’re at our best, you can kick and punch, sure, but you can’t offend us. … We can’t be agents of healing in people’s lives unless we’re ready to bear their wounds for them and from them. Jesus did precisely this for us. … Real ministry forces us to abandon our relentless search for approval from others. That frees us to love beautifully and recklessly” (p. 149-150).

“It’s always grace that changes hearts. Rules don’t, ever. Grace does” (p. 166-167).

“Your ‘righteousness’ isn’t the issue. His is. Final answer. We want it to be about us. But it’s not. Use your guilt to drive you back to Jesus … and then drop it” (p. 181).

“We’re human, so we’re going to occasionally feel threatened. It happens. Anger happens too. So do jealousy and bitterness and resentment. But [in God’s kingdom] things will be set right in the end” (p. 198).