When I was young enough to barely see over the pew, my father was preaching from a pulpit one night. The church was intently listening to his words and the conviction in which he delivered his message was apparently profound. The problem was I didn’t hear a single word he said before “Nathan, can I get you to move seats?”. It was spoken into the microphone for the entire congregation to hear. I had been warned before about being loud and making a ruckus while people were trying to listen, and I knew what the consequence would be if my father ever had to call me out from the pulpit. On this fateful night, I had triggered the dreaded platform callout. It really sucks, yo.
I and my friend were having a grand ole’ time chuckling from our pew up front and laughing like no one was there. However, there were more than a few people there and the noise carried throughout. When my “dadstor” (Dad & Pastor in one. I just made that up and am seriously bummed that’s the first time I have ever thought of that…) asked me to move, a chill ran down my spine and my heart started beating faster than Courage the cowardly dog. I tried to blame my friend but knew there was no hope.
I sat in my new seat for the rest of the sermon contemplating my punishment. It was either a spanking or a spanking. There was no way around it. My parents never beat or abused me, but a couple pops on the butt here and there was not a foreign concept when I was being a little rebel.
As the speaking came to a close and the last few minglers mozied out of the church, my “dadstor” made his rounds closing up the building. I sat in the foyer, a terrified child, thinking if the spanking didn’t kill me, the embarrassment of being called out in front of everyone would do the trick eventually. As I watched my father approach me, he had a look about him that completely threw me for a loop. He sat down and met me at eye level as I stood there shaking. With everyone gone and no one to impress, he did something that I have never forgotten. He grabbed me by my arms and leaned in with love all over his face. He asked me if I had heard what he spoke about that night. Unfortunately, my mind was much more focused on fear than it was on his message, but he was nice enough to catch me up to speed. What exactly did he speak on? Mercy and Grace.
He told me of how Jesus came and saw the sin of the world with human eyes and experienced countless mockings, verbal jabs, evil plotting against him, and eventually death and torture at the hands of his accusers and still forgave them and offered mercy. He told me of how even those that beat and crucified him were forgiven and offered an opportunity for grace. During my father’s speech, it started to become clear that there would be no punishment for what I had done that night during service. He looked at me after he was finished explaining Christ’s unwavering love for me and asked me a question:
“What kind of father would I be if I punished you after teaching everyone else about our Father’s mercy and grace?”
With tears in his eyes, he forgave me and told me he loved me. For the first time in my young life, I began to understand the true depth of what Christ had done for me. I knew who Jesus was and I was a Christian, but my dad had just changed the game forever. I got to see Christ in my father as he forgave me and showed me favored undeserved.
The funny thing about mercy is that we often expect it to come with a price tag. However, that price was paid a long, long time ago. Christ paid for our transgressions against him when he allowed himself to be hung up on a hill called Golgotha.
I have personally walked up the Mount of Olives and sailed the Galilee. I have trekked through Ein Gedi and also ascended into Jerusalem. I have peered into Nazareth and even explored Bethlehem. I have seen the Emmaus road and witnessed the garden of Gethsemane. I have walked into the Dead Sea where the salt prevents life. I have gazed out upon the Mediterranean while perched atop Herod’s ruins in Caesarea. I have entered the temple in the Holy City and once stood overlooking the desert from Masada. Chapernaum was gorgeous and Golgatha was tough. While sitting where David probably sat as he wrote some of his Psalms, I wept like a child. While peering out over the valley of Elah, where God used David to slay Goliath, my heart was filled with reverence. My night-walk through Tiberius was wonderful and the jeep ride across the Golan Heights is something I will never forget. Yes, in all these things I was in awe, but it didn’t take me traveling over the ocean to experience a heart transformed by God. I have experienced some amazing things and have seen the land where my King once walked, but without Him in my heart, I am just another tourist with yet another story. The beauty of it is astounding and the emotions you feel are enormous, but the most beautiful, emotional thing I have ever been privy to, is the saving grace that Jesus offered me as a young boy when I accepted him as my one and only Savior.
God didn’t offer mercy as a product to be purchased. He offered mercy as a priceless gift to be received. No one has ever been able to afford it, nor will they ever be. That’s why Jesus did what he did. Mercy was made free for the bankrupt by bankrupting heaven’s perfect vessel; Jesus. Mercy hung on a tree for you and me.
For anyone reading this and yearning for more than they have now, all it takes is a heart that is willing to surrender its own agenda. Jesus knows you and he loves you. Now it’s time for you to know him. My dad did what he did in that little foyer many years ago because Jesus did what he did many years before that on the cross.
Mercy: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Grace: The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Titus 3:5 – “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…”
I was a boy who finally understood in that little foyer.
Have you accepted God’s mercy and grace?
Let me know the moment God’s mercy and grace were made real to you for the first time. Share in the comments! I want to know your story!