Worthy of Mercy

“He doesn’t deserve mercy.” Those words caught my attention as I watched a recent documentary about O.J. Simpson on ESPN. They were spoken by an angry protester demanding justice for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

If we’re honest with ourselves, such words often simmer in our hearts and even erupt from our lips. Some people just don’t deserve mercy. Some people aren’t worthy of forgiveness.

The man who massacred 26 men, women and children at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The sexual predators in Hollywood and Washington. Your abusive father. Your cheating husband. Your backstabbing best friend.

I know we have a forgiving God. I know he wants me to forgive others, but some people just aren’t worthy of mercy. Some people just don’t deserve forgiveness.

Actually, nobody does. Mercy is not for the worthy. Forgiveness is not for the deserving.

God doesn’t have mercy on you because deep down you are a good person. He doesn’t forgive you because you go to church and try to make amends. Mercy by definition is unearned and undeserved.

And that’s a good thing because we definitely don’t deserve it. We like to think we are more deserving because our sins aren’t as bad. Our mistakes aren’t broadcast on the ten o’clock news. Sure we’re not perfect, but we deserve mercy because we try to be good, upstanding Christians.

That, however, is a delusion of the devil. In his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus delivers us from such delusions. You say you haven’t killed anybody, Jesus tells us. In God’s eyes, anger and hatred are tantamount to murder. You say you haven’t cheated. If you have looked at a woman lustfully, if you have peaked at porn, if you have longed for someone other than your spouse, you are just as bad as the perverted sex offenders in Hollywood and Washington.

If you keep the whole law and fail in just one minor detail, you are guilty of breaking it all. And we have failed miserably more than in just one minor detail.

O.J. Simpson does not deserve God’s mercy, but neither do you. Neither do I. Yet, that is exactly what we have received. Every day, God’s mercies are new. Every day, God forgives us because Jesus suffered our punishment and died our death on the cross. Every day, God gives us new opportunities and blessings we definitely do not deserve.

When we truly begin to grasp God’s undeserved, unearned, unfathomable mercy toward us, it changes how we view the other lousy sinners around us. How can you forgive your abusive father? How can you let go of what your husband did to you? How can you avoid looking at fallen celebrities and politicians as unworthy of mercy? By remembering God’s mercy toward you.

Mercy is not for the worthy.