But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” You may have automatically just sung the next lines, or even the rest of the song! And I bet as you did, you were stirred to thanksgiving at the grace and mercy that God has showed you. And rightly so. Grace is at the center of what we believe as followers of Jesus and I will gladly take as much grace as possible! I read the words of Psalm 86 and breathe a sigh of relief that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (v. 15). At least, I feel relief as long as that grace and mercy is applied to me. Or the people I love. Or at least the people that I like. However, when I see what I think is wrongdoing, whether that’s in the headlines or someone’s sin against me directly, I want nothing more than to see that person receive their due justice.
As much as I don’t want to admit it to myself, to God, or to you, I have a double standard. And really, most of us do, possibly even you. We rejoice at the grace we have received, whether that is from God or from other people, but it often hits a nerve when others receive that same grace, especially when they absolutely don’t deserve it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to desire justice. But refusing to accept God’s mercy to others, even after you have experienced his mercy yourself, will only hurt your soul in the end.
Take a walk today and ponder this desire for justice instead of mercy. It may be helpful to ask questions like: How are we like Jonah in this text? Where are we wanting God to be gracious and slow to anger with us, when we want God to react differently or more justly toward others? It may feel uncomfortable to examine your heart towards others. Ask God to help you confront those attitudes with honesty and courage, and to teach you to love people in his way with his heart.
By Jessica Rust