Why Is God’s Mercy New Every Morning?
Biblical promises comfort me. They remind me that so long as I breathe, I have another chance. A favorite comes from Lamentations 3:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I thought about this verse a few weeks ago, when our pastor was teaching from II Kings. Even though we had “new folks” visiting our congregation for the first time, he delivered the sermon he’d prepared, on repentance.
(By the way: One of the things I love about our church is that our pastor doesn’t swerve off course to dole out what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” in an attempt to woo new members. It takes courage to stand up in America today and talk about sin. Our pastor is brave. And so he stands at the pulpit and talks about our need to repent early and repent often, to paraphrase a slogan.)
That afternoon I got to thinking: A few decades ago, a popular bumper sticker read Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven. Despite my conviction that bumper stickers are our most reliable barometer of everyday philosophy, that one always bugged me, because it sounds as if claiming Jesus as my savior gives me a get-out-of-hell-free card. Doesn’t it though? If we’re forgiven once and for all at the moment we accept Jesus, then why do I need fresh mercy every morning?
That line of reasoning reveals a major shortcoming of leaning too hard on any bumper-sticker assurances: Bumper stickers by nature are brief, so the whole story never fits. There is no room on the bumper sticker to explain that discipleship demands more of us than we can ever hope to give. We’re never going to look Jesus in the eye and earnestly say, “I did everything just like You would have.” Repentance is an integral part of the Christian life.
So, too, praise God, is mercy. I find new ways to fall short as a follower of Jesus every day. I’m imaginative like that, you know. Despite my godly intentions, I don’t measure up. None of us does. Thank you, God, for being a God of justice and a God of mercy.
Because if the apostle Paul couldn’t nail it, I’m definitely wide of the mark.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Romans 7:19 (NIV)
[*No, I don’t think our adorable grandson will be punished for upending a box of cereal when he was not quite 13 months old. I just like the picture.]