Sunday, September 7, 2008

The mercy rule

My favorite sports season started yesterday. Yes, that's right, I love football!  So I plopped down in front of the TV to watch my favorite college team take on one of its Pac-10 opponents and, within the first two minutes, my poor, beleagured Cougars were down by two touchdowns, and on their way to a 66-3 scalping.  It was a terrible afternoon on the Palouse.  Beautiful blue skies, a crowd of crimson ready to cheer and nothing--nothing!--to cheer about. Before halftime, the score was 42-3.  Halftime!  Yep, it was quite the rout.  I was glad to be home where I could turn the channel to other games (my family doesn't call me a fair weather fan for nothing!).

I kept thinking about little league games where the mercy rule is put into effect so scores can't be run up so high.  After ten runs, I think it is, in little league baseball, the game is called, and the kids go out for ice-cream.  It keeps little ones from feeling demoralized.  Keeps first year coaches from sleepless nights, spent wondering if they'll survive the year or maybe should just chuck it all and become shoe-salesmen.  Keeps wives, mothers, fans from hiding their heads, gripping their hair, trying to find words of comfort for inconsolable players who feel demoralized. But no such luck for these people trying to find answers in what they did wrong, in their terrible loss; in high school games, college games, pro games there is no such thing as mercy.

When our kids were little, every now and then--not all the time, but every now and then--Beve and I would decide to not punish them for the offense they had committed.  We sat them down in front of us, spoke to them very seriously and then said, "We are going to show you mercy, just the way God does." Not giving them what they deserved. Grace is giving us something we don't deserve, mercy is not giving us something we do.  God gives us both. We wanted them to understand this part of God's character, to experience it just as we experience it--because it's real and changes eternity for all of us.

Only with God is there this amazing mercy.  "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never fail.  They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22-23) His mercy never fails.  This is a powerful word today.  Whatever we're facing, however far behind we feel, God shows mercy.  He doesn't give us the whomping we deserve. He looks at us, and tells us He loves us, He pours compassion on us in the form of Jesus' redemptive work on the cross, and the Holy Spirit's presence in our very lives. Do you feel it? Lean in--really, lean in.  If you don't feel His mercy today, I'll tell you the truth, it's the enemy lying to you. Because whether or not you feel it--God extends it. Take that to the bank.

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