Choosing to see God's beloved instead of wretched sinners
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so strong is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins. As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11-13)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ. By grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
I think there’s a tendency among Christians to believe that God looks at us and sees ugly sinners so he squints and fibs a little and pretends it’s all good. But that’s not what Scripture tells us. His word says that our sins are gone, that we’re made whiter than snow. And his love isn’t proportionate to our purity. It’s as strong as the heavens are high, not for those who obey him but for those who fear him, for those who turn to him and ask his mercy.
Paul makes it even clearer: God found you a filthy corpse, plagued by sin, and loved you just the same. He saw you not as you were but as you could be and he brought you back to life. By the blood of his own Son, he restored you, cleansed you, and clothed you anew, not because you somehow earned it but because of who he is.
By grace you have been saved. Simply because God wanted you. And he didn’t want you because you were so pure or good or clever. As the saying goes, God doesn’t love you because you’re loveable; he loves you because he is love. Which means he will never stop loving you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He brought you to life and you are made new.
You are not your sin. You are not your past. You are not your addiction or your abuse or your absent parents. Everything you’ve done wrong and every wrong that’s been done to you is lost in the ocean of God’s mercy. You are a new creation, born again in the waters of baptism and over and again in the confessional. You are his.
And of course, if this is all true of you, then it’s true of everyone washed in the waters of baptism, of every sinner emerging from the confessional, and of every other person forgiven somehow by God’s boundless mercy. If he doesn’t look at me and see my sin, then I have no right to look at the prisoner or the politician or the aggressive driver or the aggravating in-law and see their sin. It’s God’s job to judge—not mine—and still he chooses mercy. What if I choose mercy, too, and look with eyes of mercy instead of criticism?
This Lent, I’m giving up judgment. Oh, sin is still sin. I’m not pretending there are no rules. But except for the very few occasions where it’s my business, I’m ignoring it and seeing the beloved of God instead of wretched sinners. When people chat in church or drive slowly in the fast lane or post a nasty comment on Facebook, I’m not even making excuses; I’m just choosing mercy. Because mercy has chosen me.
I know I can’t begin to love with the love of the Father. And I know I’ll never offer mercy the way the Lord does. But I can choose to remember that I am not my sins. Which means neither are you. During this Year of Mercy, let’s rest in the mercy of God by allowing him to tell us who we are. And let’s offer that mercy to others. Jesus tells us that he who is forgiven much shows great love (Luke 7:47). I know that I have been forgiven much—more even than I realize. I’m trying to learn to love better as a result.
Meg Hunter-Kilmerwrites for her blog “Held by His Pierced Hands” and travels around the country speaking to youth and adults, leading retreats and parish missions.