Day 19 of Lent

Rob Bell!  John Piper!  Heaven!  Hell!  Universalism!  Ahhhhh!

Just kidding.  Chill out.  But now that you are here...

Our God loves righteousness.  Jesus is, after all, righteous as God the Father is righteous.  And we seek (if we can call on the name of Jesus) to live in a way that is Godly (righteous).  This means we try to look like Jesus.  How can we look like Jesus?  That is simple.  It isn't easy, but it is simple.  Do the things Jesus did - see people the way Jesus saw them - and ultimately accept his righteousness as our own (via the Holy Spirit).  This is as much about right action as right belief (faith without works is dead, etcetcetc).  A corollary term used to describe God's desire for righteousness is that God is just.  Or we say that God desires justice.  Righteousness is so much more than stamping out evil just as justice is so much more than punishment.  God's greatest act of justice (or, bringing the world to righteousness) was to send Jesus.  His life, death, and resurrection showed us exactly how righteous a person ought to be.

Our God loves mercy.  Jesus is, after all, merciful as God the Father is merciful.  I think we first truly encounter the Father (as Jesus understood the Father) when we feel forgiveness - not fear.  Sure, the Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom - but we only fear what we do not know.  And to admit that you don't know God should probably put some fear into you.  But for every Scripture proclaiming how scary our God is and how much we should fear that God - there are, like, 10x more verses about how much that God loves us.  We appease those that we fear (don't hurt me!  Here is a sacrifice!) but we love those who forgive (thank you!  Let me share mercy as well!).  I think Jesus.... said something about that.  A similar term used to describe God's mercy is forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a lot bigger than just wiping away all those sins you've been accumulating (as an aside, are you a sinner because you sin or do you sin because you are a sinner?  Biblically it is the latter).  If we want to look like Jesus we go around forgiving.  Not because they are repentent - but because Jesus was merciful.  There are so many places in the Bible where Jesus heals, forgives, and shows mercy to those who's faith/repentance/righteousness is never even discussed.

These concepts of God - righteous and merciful - are best seen in community.  As Les Miserables proclaims in the finale - "to love another person is to see the face of God."

To pull a bit from Daniel Erlander (to his credit!),
righteousness is following the words of the covenant gift, the Holy Torah, which describes the manna life, the just way to live together.  Mercy is practicing compassion towards the most vulnerable in society - the widows, orphans, and sojourners.  Yahweh understood that righteousness without mercy leads to grumpy legalism.  On the other hand, mercy without righteousness leads to wishy-washy sentimentalism.

God wants us to love righteousness and love mercy.  So get over yourself.  Give Jesus some mad props for doing it better than you've pulled off so far.  Chill a bit on talking about Heaven and Hell and just love some folks.