Mercy and Grace

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During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?” ~Gen 3:8-11 (CEB)

What happens when we feel guilt and shame? What are we to do when we find that we can no longer hide behind Self-reliance? We need forgiveness and new life. God gives us both. When we realize that we cannot stay behind our masks our world feels turned upside down. We no longer know which way is up.

When we come out from behind our masks we don’t find what we deserve, we find mercy. In the garden God killed an innocent animal, this first sacrifice pointed to the future sacrifice of Christ. In his great love and compassion, God provided an escape from the wrath they deserved. This is mercy.

Mercy as beautiful as it is is not enough. It is only protection. God took the skin of the animal and fashioned a new identity for them (Gen 3:21), one on his terms. This was undeserved, this is grace.

So, mercy protects and grace provides. It is hard to accept life that we have not worked for or earned, but the only way we can live is by feasting on the Tree of Life. A few thousand years after the first Adam, one comes to show us how to live by the Tree of Life. Jesus shows us what life could look like when we depend solely on God to provide.

Adam and Eve received mercy in the garden when God sacrificed that animal. He gives us the same mercy through the sacrifice through Jesus’ blood on the cross. Jesus received the punishment that was meant for us. But where does grace come into the picture? God knew we would need a hiding place, but he doesn’t let us stay hidden by our terms.

Yes, Jesus died for our sins. Truth is that we also die with him when we are baptized. If we died with him, then when he was buried, we were buried, when he arose, we rose (Rom 6:4-8).

The good news is that we do not have to manufacture our own hiding places. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3) Through his death, Jesus is now our safe place. This is grace.

In the self-reliant life, my behavior determines my acceptability. But when we realize that we are loved by God unconditionally we find that it is also safe to love others as God guides us. When I realize I already measure up in Christ (2 Cor 3:5-6) I don’t have to measure myself against others. When I realize my needs are met through Christ (Phil 4:19) then I don’t look to others for my needs. When I realize that I am righteous through Christ (2 Cor 5:21) I don’t have to rely on self-righteousness.

Through Christ, it is now safe to love God and it is safe to love others (Matt 22:37-40).

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Your Son into the world to provide mercy and grace. Thank You for helping me choosing life. Help me to love others as You would have me love. Amen.

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