Judgement and Mercy

Addendum: I should have titled this post, “Imperfections”. (Pun not intended.)

I stepped into a chapel on Sunday. On the sloped ceiling above the sanctuary hung a large, round icon of Jesus. The colors were bright and vibrant, painted in a modern version of a Byzantine style icon of his face and shoulders. He had his right hand up with his thumb touching the third finger. From the icon, Jesus stared downward in an emotionless gaze at those present in the chapel. I looked up to the icon a second time. It must have been a hold over from my dark mood the night before, but it appeared as if Jesus was judging me. And it felt like He was not exactly happy with me.

I tried to shake the feeling off. Why would my friend be judging me like that? The feeling haunted me. It still haunts me.

Then I noticed two ideas come across my radar screen. Later that night, as I was eating dinner with a friend, she made the comment that God loves us through our imperfections. Last night, I read a line in a book that said that God unconditionally loves us completely, and that love includes our good side as well as our dark side. Hmmm… How many times do I try to turn my best side toward God in prayer?

I am seriously tempted to wonder how, or even why, God would love me, especially with my dark side. How can He love me through my imperfections? How can He love me in all my brokenness? I know that such wondering to such questions are fruitless. No deeply satisfying answer on this side of heaven exists. The answer is a matter of faith. The question itself is a matter of faith. I know what scripture says. I know what the church says. I even know what I would say to one of my students with the same questions. But still…

I asked another friend what he thought. On imperfections, he wondered if we were perfect, would we need God? Good point. He then said that through our imperfections, we come to know God. In our imperfections, God can heal us, save us, make us perfect, and bring us closer to Him. In a way, it is our imperfections that make us unique and who we are as different persons. I thought of the image of the mosaic of the Body of Christ. Our imperfections identify us as different colored stones in the mosaic—each piece is different, none is more important than another, and if one piece is missing then the whole image looks incomplete.

My friend also reminded me of what someone once said. The devil really did us a favor in the beginning. We have been blessed by the Fall because now we can learn how to truly appreciate the goodness and greatness of God through our separation and returning to Him. You cannot really appreciate something until it has been lost and found again. Reminds me of the three parables about lost items in Luke 15, a sheep, a coin, and a son.

On the feeling I had of Jesus judging me, my friend said that it was probably a gift. Without justice, there can no mercy, and that maybe I will be able to begin to understand and really appreciate what God’s mercy is all about.

I then thought about the Jesus Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. This simple prayer gets deeper and deeper the longer I travel on the journey home.

There is much to think and pray about. God uses what He can, and He has asked you and me to participate with Him in this world and in His love. I am in awe.

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