#LentWithESC – Day 27

Paradoxical Pardon

Stephanie McCullough

Grace-on-the-Hill corps member

Throughout college, I spent my summers working at an incredible Christian summer camp in northwest Arkansas. On the very first night every session, we would go over four tenets of God: righteousness, judgment, love, and mercy. It can be a lot to wrap one’s head around. How can the Lord perfectly balance judgment in one hand and mercy in the other? How can God be total and perfect love while being righteous and just? (My tiny human brain struggles to reconcile the Creator’s divine mystery; my thoughts and ways are so very different from His.) Yet perfectly and beautifully, our Father encompasses all.

The passage in Numbers tells a story of God’s judgment and mercy, all wrapped into a neat paragraph. Full of poisonous serpents, it can be a bit jarring to read, particularly for anyone who experiences ophidiophobia. The Psalm draws us back to those giving aspects of God — great mercy, delivered them wonders, etc. To focus on just the judgment or just the mercy severely sells the Lord short.

The Creator of the UNIVERSE is so much more than those four basic qualities; beyond that, God on the whole is way more than we could comprehend. Our God is one to imitate, so I personally am super thankful for the example in Christ. Jesus, flesh as fragile as mine, served and loved in utmost humility; His example is a driving one in my life and the lives of so many around me.

It’s a wondrous thing to gather energy to do good work from the Lord, just as Christ did before us. In imitating Jesus we depend on the good mercy of the Father and are made alive with no reference to accolades or accomplishments. I love the eloquent reminder of this in Ephesians. We are saved by grace by a loving God, Who despite being the ultimate Judge is willing to care about our souls, our brief yet miraculous wisps of life.

Grace is where it’s at. We silly humans get so hung up on the negative; nay-sayers point at the poisonous serpents and plagues and claim we serve a cruel and purely judgmental deity. Even Christians (who should know better) try to play God and condemn one another, whether or not the issues have anything to do with salvation. John 3 reminds us of the grace and light from the Lord. This light is of Christ, shining through the bright souls of the redeemed. God’s perfect and might love covers a multitude; this is the new fashion of judgment for those in the Lord’s light and peace. Let us rejoice in this gift that morphs His judgment from a scary field of snakes into a celebration of life and renewal.