Mercy is simply justice tempered by that wisdom which grows out of perfection of knowledge and the full recognition of the natural weaknesses and environmental handicaps of finite creatures. "Our God is full of compassion, gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy." Therefore "whosoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved," "for he will abundantly pardon." "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting, to everlasting", yes, "his mercy endures forever." "I am the Lord who executes loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight." "I do not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men," for I am "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort."
The affectionate heavenly Father, whose spirit indwells his children on earth, is not a divided personality--one of justice and one of mercy--neither does it require a mediator to secure the Father's favor or forgiveness. Divine righteousness is not dominated by strict retributive justice, God as a father transcends God as a judge.
God is love, the Son is mercy, the Spirit is ministry--the ministry of divine love and endless mercy to all intelligent creation. The Spirit is the personification of the Father's love and the Son's mercy; in him are they eternally united for universal service. The Spirit is love applied to the creature creation, the combined love of the Father and the Son.
Moses feared to proclaim the mercy of Yahweh, preferring to awe his people with the fear of the justice of God, saying. "The Lord your God is God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, a great God, a mighty and terrible God, who regards not man." Again he sought to control the turbulent clans when he declared that "your God kills when you disobey him; he heals and gives life when you obey him." But Moses taught these tribes that they would become the chosen people of God only on condition that they "kept all his commandments and obeyed all his statutes."
Little of the mercy of God was taught the Hebrews during these early times. they learned of God as "the Almighty, the Lord is a man of war, God of battles, glorious in power, who dashes in pieces his enemies." The Lord your God walks in the midst of the camp to deliver you." The Israelites thought of their God as one who loved them, but who also "hardened Pharaoh's heart" and "cursed their enemies."
In Palestine the wisdom and all-pervasiveness of God was often grasped but seldom his love and mercy. The Yahweh of these times "sends evil spirits to dominate the souls of his enemies: he prospers his own and obedient children, while he curses and visits dire judgments upon all others. "He disappoints the devices of the crafty, he takes the wise in their own deceit."
Only at Ur did a voice arise to cry out the mercy of God, saying: "He shall pray to God and shall find favor with him and shall see his face with joy, for God will give to man divine righteousness." Thus from Ur there is preached salvation, divine favor, by faith. "He is gracious to the repentant and says, 'Deliver him from going down in the pit, for I have found a ransom.' If any say, "I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not," God will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and he shall see the light." Not since the times of Melchizedek had the Levantine world heard such a ringing and cheering.
Hosea followed Amos and his doctrine of a universal God of justice by the resurrection of the Mosaic concept of a God of love. Hosea preached forgiveness through repentance, not by sacrifice. He proclaimed a gospel of loving-kindness and divine mercy, saying: "I will betroth you to me forever, yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and judgment and in loving-kindness and in mercies. I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness." "I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away."
Hosea faithfully continued the moral warnings of Amos, saying of God, "It is my desire that I chastise them." But the Israelites regarded it as cruelty bordering on treason when he said: "I will say to those who were not my people, 'you are my people', and they will say, "you are our God." He continued to preach repentance and forgiveness, saying, "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away." Always Hosea proclaimed hope and forgiveness. The burden of his message ever was: "I will have mercy upon my people. They shall know no God but me, for there is no savior beside me."
Ever the burden of Micah's message was: "Shall I come before God with burnt offerings? Will the Lord be pleased with a thousand rams or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown me, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." And it was a great age, these were indeed stirring times when mortal man heard, and some even believed, such emancipating messages more than two and a half millenniums ago. And but for the stubborn resistance of the priests, these teachers would have overthrown the whole bloody ceremonial of the Hebrew ritual of worship.
And it comforted the Jewish captives, as it has thousands upon thousands ever since, to hear such words as: "Thus says the Lord, 'I have created you, I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine." "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you since you are precious in my sight." "Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on her son? Yes, she may forget, yet will I not forget my children, for behold I have graven them upon the palms of my hands; I have even covered them with the shadow of my hands." "Let the wicked forsake his ways and unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
The farseeing and courageous Isaiah effectively eclipsed the nationalistic Yahweh by his sublime portraiture of the majesty and universal omnipotence of the supreme Yahweh, God of love, ruler of the universe, and affectionate Father of all mankind. Ever since those eventful days the highest God concept in the Occident has embraced universal justice, divine mercy and eternal righteousness. In superb language and with matchless grace this great teacher portrayed the all-powerful Creator as the all-loving Father.
Religious habits of thinking and acting are contributory to the economy of spiritual growth. One can develop religious predispositions toward favorable reaction to spiritual stimuli, a sort of conditioned spiritual reflex. Habits which favor religious growth embrace cultivated sensitivity to divine values, recognition of religious living in others, reflective meditation of cosmic meanings, worshipful problem solving, sharing one's spiritual life with one's fellows, avoidance of selfishness, refusal to presume on divine mercy, living as in the presence of God. The factors of religious growth may be intentional, but the growth itself is unvaryingly unconscious.
Jesus' originality was unstifled. He was not bound by tradition or handicapped by enslavement to narrow conventionality. He spoke with undoubted confidence and taught with absolute authority. But his superb originality did not cause him to overlook the gems of truth in the teachings of his predecessors and contemporaries. And the most original of his teachings was the emphasis of love and mercy in the place of fear and sacrifice.
To material, evolutionary, finite creatures, a life predicated on the living of the Father's will leads directly to the attainment of spirit supremacy in the personality arena and brings such creatures one step nearer the comprehension of the Father-Infinite. Such a Father life is one predicated on truth, sensitive to beauty, and dominated by goodness. Such a God-knowing person is inwardly illuminated by worship and outwardly devoted to the wholehearted service of the universal brotherhood of all personalities, a service ministry which is filled with mercy and motivated by love, while all these life qualities are unified in the evolving personality on ever-ascending levels of cosmic wisdom, self-realization, God-finding, and Father worship.
As man shakes off the shackles of fear, as he bridges continents and oceans with his machines, generations and centuries with his records, he must substitute for each transcended restraint a new and voluntarily assumed restraint in accordance with the moral dictates of expanding human wisdom. These self-imposed restraints are at once the most powerful and the most tenuous of all the factors of human civilization--concepts of justice and ideals of brotherhood. Man even qualifies himself for the restraining garments of mercy when he dares to love his fellow men, while he achieves the beginnings of spiritual brotherhood when he elects to mete out to them that treatment which he himself would be accorded, even that treatment which he conceives that God would accord them.
"In your lives overthrow error and overcome evil by the love of the living truth. In all your relations with men do good for evil. The Lord God is merciful and loving; he is forgiving. Let us love God, for he first loved us. By God's love and through his mercy we shall be saved. Poor men and rich men are brothers. God is their Father. The evil you would not have done you, do not to others."
"The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him and his righteousness even to our children's children. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his creation, he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Whither shall I go from God's spirit? Whither shall I flee from the divine presence? Thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place; also with him who is of a contrite heart and a humble spirit!' None can hide himself from our God, for he fills heaven and earth. Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice. Let all nations say: The Lord reigns! Give thanks to God, for his mercy endures forever.
"The heavens declare God's righteousness, and all the people have seen his glory. It is God who has made us, and not we ourselves, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations. Our God is governor among the nations. Let the earth be filled with his glory! O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful gifts to the children of men!
"I have come to proclaim the establishment of the Father's kingdom. And this kingdom shall include the worshiping souls of Jew and gentile, rich and poor, free and bond, for my Father is no respecter of persons, his love and his mercy are over all."
Love and mercy. A compassionate father is freely forgiving, fathers do not hold vengeful memories against their children. Fathers are not like judges, enemies, or creditors. Real families are built upon tolerance, patience, and forgiveness.
"Your sonship is grounded in faith, and you are to remain unmoved by fear. Your joy is born of trust in the divine word, and you shall not therefore be led to doubt the reality of the Father's love and mercy. It is the very goodness of God that leads men into true and genuine repentance. Your secret of the mastery of self is bound up with your faith in the indwelling spirit, which ever works by love. Even this saving faith you have not of yourselves, it also is the gift of God. And if you are the children of this living faith, you are no longer the bondslaves of self but rather the triumphant masters of your selves, the liberated sons of God.
"Your forebears feared God because he was mighty and mysterious. You shall adore him because he is magnificent in love, plenteous in mercy, and glorious in truth. The power of God engenders fear in the heart of man, but the nobility and righteousness of his personality beget reverence, love, and willing worship. A dutiful and affectionate son does not fear or dread even a mighty and noble father. I have come into the world to put love in the place of fear, joy in the place of sorrow, confidence in the place of dread, loving service and appreciative worship in the place of sorrow, confidence in the place of slavish bondage and meaningless ceremonies. But it is still true of those who sit in darkness that. 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' But when the light has more fully come, the sons of God are led to praise the Infinite for what he is rather than to fear him for what he does.
While the religion of authority may impart a present feeling of settled security, you pay for such a transient satisfaction the price of the loss of your spiritual freedom and religious liberty. My Father does not require of you as the price of entering the kingdom of heaven that you should force yourself to subscribe to a belief in things which are spiritually repugnant, unholy, and untruthful. It is not required of you that your own sense of mercy, justice, and truth should be outraged by submission to an outworn system of religious forms and ceremonies. The religion of the spirit leaves you forever free to follow the truth wherever the leadings of the spirit take you. And who can judge--perhaps this spirit may have something to impart to this generation which other generations have refused to hear?
Never forget there is only one adventure which is more satisfying and thrilling than the attempt to discover the will of the living God, and that is the supreme experience of honestly trying to do that divine will. And fail not to remember that the will of God can be done in any earthly occupation. Some callings are not holy and others secular. All things are sacred in the lives of those who are spirit led; that is, subordinated to truth, ennobled by love, dominated by mercy, and restrained by fairness--justice. The spirit which my Father and I shall send into the world is not only the Spirit of Truth but also the spirit of idealistic beauty.
"A part of every father lives in the child. The father enjoys priority and superiority of understanding in all matters connected with the child-parent relationship. The parent is able to view the immaturity of the child in the light of the more advanced parental maturity, the riper experience of the older partner. With the earthly child and the heavenly Father, the divine parent possesses infinity and divinity of sympathy and capacity for loving understanding. Divine forgiveness is inevitable; it is inherent and inalienable in God's infinite understanding, in his perfect knowledge of all that concerns the mistaken judgment and erroneous choosing of the child. Divine justice is so eternally fair that it unfailingly embodies understanding mercy.
"He who believes this gospel, believes not merely in me but in Him who sent me. When you look upon me, you see not only the Son of Man but also Him who sent me. I am the light of the world, and whosoever will believe my teaching shall no longer abide in darkness. If you gentiles will hear me, you shall receive the words of life and shall enter forthwith in the joyous liberty of the truth of sonship with God. If my fellow countrymen, the Jews, choose to reject me and to refuse my teachings, I will not sit in judgment on them, for I came not to judge the world but to offer it salvation. Nevertheless, they who reject me and refuse to receive my teaching shall be brought to judgment in due season by my Father and those whom he has appointed to sit in judgment on such as reject the gift of mercy and the truths of salvation. Remember, all of you, that I speak not of myself, but that I have faithfully declared to you that which the Father commanded I should reveal to the children of men. And these words which the Father directed me to speak to the world are words of divine truth, everlasting mercy, and eternal life.
Throughout the vicissitudes of life, remember always to love one another. Do not strive with men, even with unbelievers. Show mercy even to those who despitefully abuse you. Show yourselves to be loyal citizens, upright artisans, praiseworthy neighbors, devoted kinsmen, understanding parents, and sincere believers in the brotherhood of the Father's kingdom. And my spirit shall be upon you, now and even to the end of the world.