Monday, May 02, 2016

Does Mercy Triumph Over Judgment?

I was at the Audrey Assad concert/revival meeting in my town this past Friday, and Audrey sang: "You delight in showing mercy/And mercy triumphs over judgment." This prompted a friend to turn to me and ask, "Does it really?" And all I could say was, "yes." It's right there in the book of James, chapter 2, verse 13. I thought it prudent, rather than doubt the rather frank preaching of countless saints, to explore the possibility that we do not understand mercy, if its triumph is understood in contrast with justice. Indeed, I think that St. James understands judgment there as synonymous with justice.

Justice is an obligation. Judgment falls at the failure to uphold what is due in justice. Mercy ameliorates the consequences due to sin. That is, one interesting aspect of mercy is that it acknowledges that sin has taken place. Sin exists. Mercy cannot exist if the real possibility of sin does not exist.

Therefore, any indulgence or forbearance that denies the truth of some moral standard as given by God is not mercy. St. James is basically telling us that, because of the merciful indulgence of God in Christ, we have less excuse than we did before. Because in the Church, the preaching of Christ and the sacraments mean that repeated, grave failures of justice may well show that we don't understand Christ at all.

But what is it about the state of mortal sin that merits everlasting judgment? A person in a state of mortal sin has knowingly, deliberately chosen to set himself against God as his final end. Mercy acknowledges God as the Truth to which man is destined, so the one who receives mercy cannot be in such a state.

God does not merely want the balance-sheet square between us and Him; he wants us to be beloved children and heirs. It is clear that he's gone well beyond justice in dealings with us.

Pride confuses mercy with justice, and claims that God owes something in strict justice to man, which is impossible.

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