When I was thirteen years old I shot a BB gun and broke a very expensive window of a nearby home. It wasn’t intentional nor an act of aggression, it was a thoughtless and irresponsible act by a kid who knew nothing about guns. I’d like to say it was “unlucky” but the immediate response would be “and what did you think would happen when you pointed a gun at someone’s home, then pulled the trigger?”
To make matters worse, I tried to hide the crime. I was fearful and filled with regret and sadness. When the whole thing came to light of course I was in serious trouble with my parents and our neighbors.
To reconcile, it was decided that I would be paying for that window, and first I must apologize in person to our neighbors. They were an older, retired couple who were known for being kind and generous (especially with Halloween candy). They accepted my apology and reminded me how much the window would cost to replace. I reassured them that I’d be paying for it but it would take some time.
In today’s dollars, the window would cost about $2,000 to replace so there was a lot of work to be done! My dad helped me by creating a paper ledger (my first lesson in the world of accounting) that would show the starting balance, and with each chore or paid task I’d write the description and update the balance. Since it was autumn there would be no high-paying lawn mowing or landscaping gigs so, unfortunately, the main thing I could do was babysit. No more weekend fun until the debt was paid and after three months I hardly made a dent in the amount due. It was going to take a long, long time to repay and I was miserable.
God, Justice, and Mercy
Yesterday at a Bible study meeting we discussed how God is both merciful and just, and I recalled my crime as a kid. God keeps his promises and he also loves us so he also shows us mercy. Here’s a great resource from The Bible Project which beautifully presents the Character of God.
For three months I labored heavily so that justice would be served, yet I received no mercy. For Christmas, I had hoped for some cash to help pay off the debt quicker. After the presents were unwrapped, my parents reminded me to open my stocking. Great, maybe I can sell some of the candy at school (in those days I was known as the candyman as I often sold candy to other kids).
My parents were watching me intently sifting through the contents of the stocking when suddenly there was a piece of paper; the ledger. Not understanding why the ledger was in the stocking, I looked at my parents, and they said, “look at it”. Then I realized, my parents crossed out the balance and had written “paid” on it. I couldn’t believe it! We all suddenly had tears in our eyes; it was the best gift I’d ever received.
My parents gave me a good lesson in justice and an even better lesson in mercy which better equips me to understand what Christ did for us in his work on the cross. Our debt of sin is astronomical and impossible for us to pay on our own.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT)
Call to Action
Think of a time when you were shown mercy and think through how you would retell the story, then pray for an opportunity to share with a non-believer. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the words and that the other person’s heart will start to soften to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Let your mercy story stand on its own until the right time for the parallel to be drawn. This is what I’m praying for. If one heart moves closer to eternity with God then shooting that window was very much worthwhile.
Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 23-26 and Luke 11