Some things about God can be confounding to people of faith. This has been true beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the patriarchs of the faith, in the Old Testament. One difficulty is how to make sense out of all the talk of the immense power of God (He who ‘comes with power the Lord GOD who rules by a strong arm.’ You can almost hear the shattering thunder and see the lightening strikes can’t you?), alongside His gentle care and concern for us (Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care).
Another conundrum is how to understand justice, which God demands and mercy, which He also demands. Justice refers to what is right or maintaining things as they should be. It involves fairness. It also involves a penalty for an offense or an injustice.
But, there are buts…. I have asked kids preparing for confirmation to describe God. Someone always says that God is fair. In certain ways that is true. But fair-ness is only a part of what we mean when we talk about justice.Justice should generally be distributed fairly. One big problem is that if God just demanded fairness, no one would be admitted to heaven. We sin and so we offend justice. We offend others. We offend God. Sin is part of the human condition and therefore none of us are worthy of spending eternity with God. There have been only two exceptions (I know you know who they are).
Now with any injustice, a penalty is owed. The rub is that we can’t pay the penalty. We can’t make things perfectly right.Here is where God’s mercy comes in. God’s mercy is the balance necessary for justice to be complete. It makes justice perfectly effective. God’s Mercy has a name. We call Him Jesus. He was and is the perfect and only effective sacrifice to pay the penalty for our offenses.
St. Paul told Titus, the bishop of Crete, “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had donebut because of his mercy,He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior,so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
The bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit is what we receive in baptism. It is an immensely opulent gift. It is the beginning of how the good Shepherd feeds His flock, gathers His lambs into His care and leads His faithful home.
Deacon Greg Osgood