Our Merciful God

Sam Petitfils

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

When I was a child I had a series of teachers through my elementary years, just like most of us. One day my parents were late in picking me up because they got detained. My second grade teacher stayed with me for over an hour until my parents arrived to pick me up. I remember this teacher as one I could approach, even if I messed up somehow. She was merciful and available. Then I had another teacher who often flew off the handle, hurled out rebukes, and generally found it hard to manage our class without "losing it." I usually tried to avoid her.

Which teacher do you think best represents how God relates to us? The first, of course.

The text above shows us what happens when we go to God, confessing our sins. He forgives us based on His love and righteous nature. Because of Christ's work on the cross, God can forgive us when we sin. He longs to do so, yet often we think He might not be available or we need to wait until God "cools down." How inaccurate, because God does not change in His attitude toward us, in fact He does not change at all (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). God means it when He promises to forgive us when we sin. We therefore need to go to Him, confessing our wrongdoing.

When we run from someone, we usually fear some form of reprisal or rebuke. The response of our first parents was to run and shift the blame. But if we remember God's mercy invites us to go to Him, we will seek restoration at the earliest possible moment. Our sinful nature likes to run and hide, but God's Spirit leads us to unload that guilt by confessing it to Him. 

We should also learn from God's own example and extend mercy to others, even if they do not deserve it. But we sometimes make it difficult to do that. If we scowl at others when they have offended us, they will be less likely to approach us seeking restoration. On the other hand, if we display a warm friendly greeting to others they will find us approachable and be more likely to seek us out when they have sinned against us.

Remember God's mercy. We read often in Scripture that He will respond favorably if only his people will return to Him. God displayed great mercy to Jonah when the disobedient prophet ran from God, even though God taught him some tough lessons. God will equally show us mercy if we come to Him confessing our sins and seeking restoration. David cried, "Have mercy on me,  O God, according to your steadfast love" (Psalm 51:1). What happened? God showed him His tender mercy.

What leads us to come to God? God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Knowing we serve a merciful God will encourage us to come to God with our guilt. He will faithfully forgive us and receive us as children.  

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