This is the first of what I hope becomes a series on stumbling blocks I’ve encountered since becoming a Christian. I write these to encourage and help those who’ve encountered these same stumbling blocks.
One of my first stumbling blocks as a Christian was the mercy of God. Here I had just confessed myself a sinner when I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and yet I didn’t truly believe I was a sinner. I was honest and didn’t steal, hardworking, paid my bills and took care of my family. What I didn’t realize, because of my secular upbringing, is that I was guilty of divorce, adultery, fornication, and advocating taking the life of innocent unborn children, which boils down to advocating murder. I didn’t see that at the time. In the secular world I was a good person. So, in my own eyes I was righteous and because of this I had a horrible time coming to grips with the depth of God’s mercy.
I don’t remember when I grasped the extent of His mercy, but one day I realized that God’s mercy was extended to even the likes of Hitler, Stalin and, yes, the CEO of Planned Parenthood. Instead of praising God for that mercy I thought He was unjust. What was He thinking? These people had committed horrendous atrocities in their lives and God was willing to forgive them. Sin caused so much heartache and suffering in the world how could He just wipe that slate clean? These people get a free pass, while their victims have to live with the mess these sins made of their lives? How could this be?
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Matthew 7:6-7
So I began searching for answers to these questions. As I have heard other Christians express theses same sentiments I share the answers that the Holy Spirit led me to in hopes that they too can get past this stumbling block.
The Precious Blood of Christ
“The Precious Blood belongs in an especial manner to men. Much more, therefore, does God invite them to come to its heavenly baths, and receive therein, not only the cleansing of their souls, but the power of a new and amazing life.” -Father Faber, The Precious Blood
The Holy Spirit brought me to the understanding of how truly precious Christ’s blood must be to the Father. That blood price paid for every sin, no matter how large or how small, ever committed since the beginning of time or will be committed until the end of time. There is only so much blood in a human body. For that small amount of blood to cover such a great multitude of sins the blood of Christ must be very precious indeed.
Marian offering of the Precious Blood:
IMMACULATE Heart of Mary, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of sinners, especially [Name].
God’s chosen method of glorification
Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Exodus 33:18-19
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. John 12:27
He [God] destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. Eph 1:5-8
So Moses asks to see God’s glory and God tells Moses His glory is grace and mercy. God is both omniscient and omnipresence, among other things. That right there is plenty to impress anyone, but it isn’t what God considers His glory. No, His glory is His grace and mercy. It’s incredibly telling. This awesome, powerful God wants to be known and loved not for his power, but for his graciousness and mercy. He probably wants this, so that sinners would know him to be so and not be afraid to approach Him.
Any parent can tell you how scared a child becomes when confronted with something he has done wrong and the fear of the punishment to come. It makes them afraid to admit what they’ve done. If you can assure them of your mercy, then they’re much more likely to confess. Once that happens, then you can you work with them and explain to them why it was wrong and, hopefully, set them on a better path; one where they won’t cause havoc, hurt others, and ruin their lives. It seems to me that God works in a similar way. First comes mercy, so there is no fear in confessing our sins and, next, comes the Catholic Church and Holy Spirit to lead us through discipleship where we learn a better way. So, it appears that God’s salvation is less of a justice issue, than it is of a Father trying to get His children on a better path and from hurting those around them.
God works for our good
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
When I was looking at the seeming injustice of wiping the slate clean for the sinner, I was only looking at one side of the scale. All I could see was the suffering and hardship endured by those who have been hurt by sin. The Holy Spirit showed me what I wasn’t taking into account: it’s what God can and does do for these people. I have heard of people going through some horrible things who, with the grace of God, come out the other side almost grateful that it happened because they have seen how much good God has made come from it.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I’m not saying that since God does this, then it’s okay to sin. What I’m saying if you are stumbling at the idea of God being merciful to sinners because it seems like they are getting off scot-free while others are left to suffer, then to be fair to God, you should realize that God works with those who have been hurt. It’s not a one-sided affair.
No sense beating a dead horse
God performs miraculous internal changes for those who come to Him through Jesus Christ. So miraculous that they are truly not the same people they used to be. If that old person has died, then what use is it to keep clinging to their past and beating them over the head with those transgressions? God is offering them a second chance at life. Who are we to try and take that away from them; especially, knowing that it is God’s chosen method of glorifying both Himself and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. God gets glorified through these people because they truly realize how much God has done for them. Thus they become powerful witnesses.
This is especially true to others like them. The redeemed sinner receives legitimacy in the eyes of the sinner because he has been through what they are now going through. This means that they are more likely to listen to them and the redeemed sinner can relate to them on a level that others, well-meaning as they are, cannot. God truly can accomplish great things through these people.
Love your neighbor as you would love yourself
This is the commandment that I have found the most helpful. For one, I think it most epitomizes God’s gracious mercy. If you’re hard on yourself, then it’s okay to be hard on another, even when it’s not merited. If you’re easy on yourself, then it’s okay to be easy on another, even when it’s not merited. It’s okay because you are meting out equal measures. The problem comes in when we mete out unequal measures. How many of us have laughed off one of our mistakes and misdoings then turned around and got mad at someone else for doing the exact same thing? I’ve seen this over and over again. As I’m sure I’ve done it over and over again.
I apply this here because when I think of hard core sinners (my figurative neighbors) as my father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother I find out I would much rather they be treated by God as the prodigal son rather than being cursed and left to live a life of sin and damned to hell. What I try to do, (when I remember), is imagine myself as the neighbor, so this person becomes my parent, child, or sibling. I usually pick the person I love the most, which is my son. From that perspective I can then say, “This is someone I love.” Now, loving them (rather than hating them), what would I do if I saw them doing these things or living that lifestyle?” What I found is while I’d look down on an abortion doctor I don’t know, I would worry and pray for one that I loved. I’d reason or plead with them instead of disparaging them or putting them down. I would also pray for them much differently. This method helps me overcome that and see a person that needs to be saved. I can now pray more heartfelt prayers for abortion doctors and hardened criminals who desperately need our prayers where before it was just lip service, if I could stomach praying for them at all.
Lastly, in a very real sense we are praying for our children because the more sinners converted means less predators in the world to prey upon them.
Final words for now
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
In a nutshell, when sins are large, habitual, or directed at ourselves it becomes very hard to understand how God could forgive the unredeemed or even to remember that God does want to forgive them. As hard as it can be there are considerations that can make it easier. Hopefully, these considerations will help us into greater conformity with Christ. And if you think I missed something, then please fill me in.
Don’t fight against what you hate. Fight for what you love.
May we all come to realize the great mercy of God! God bless!
The photo was generously provided by Alan Alfaro under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.