But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ … Ephesians 2:4-5
We don’t often think of ourselves as being in need of mercy. Yes, we need forgiveness, yes we need grace, but mercy …? Convicted criminals need mercy. Murderers, rapists and terrorists need mercy but law-abiding citizens like you and me? Surely we don’t need mercy.
However, every sin is worthy of the death penalty, such is God’s holiness. In the Bible the most common response, when someone becomes aware of God’s holiness, was to fall facedown, usually terrified (Matthew 17:6). Yet in our day we seem to have lost our sense of awe and tend to think of God as marginally holier than Mother Theresa.
We also underestimate our own sinfulness. Because we don’t commit “big” sins, we excuse ourselves. We think we aren’t as sinful as others, forgetting that God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The sudden death experiences of people in the Bible like Uzzah, Nadab, Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira remind us that every sin is worthy of the death penalty. The agony that Jesus suffered on the cross reminds us of how much it cost God to forgive sin. It was an enormous price for God to pay. Yet he thought we were worth it.
By underestimating God’s holiness and our sinfulness, we also underestimate God’s mercy. God is rich in mercy. He isn’t stingy or tight-fisted. He’s more than willing to show us mercy “because of his great love for us.”
It’s not easy to agree with God and say, “I don’t just need your grace, I also need your mercy.” But if we are prepared to admit our need we become recipients of God’s rich mercy.