By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
When you have been wronged it can be hard to consider mercy, but when you are the one who has done wrong, mercy can be what saves you. Certainly looking at truth about yourself can be unacceptable without grace. The Bible is essentially stories of redemption, and how a living and interactive God intervenes in the lives of regular people. Due to the graphic nature of man’s offenses in the Bible, one is left with the impression that God can redeem anything. Without grace, we cannot grow. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:11-13). God, time and again, takes unfortunate circumstances and makes them lead to something better for those that seek Him. The concept of grace, knowing that one is fully accepted by God, disrupts the shame cycle that perpetuates sin.
While grace is essential for growth, the Bible uses cutting down a tree as a metaphor for judgment. Some treat the Bible as a legal document used to condemn. The religious order of the Pharisees neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4). Religious people can turn people away from God. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:13-14). These are strong words from Jesus.
So grace is preferred over judgment because grace is the way to grow while judgment is used to destroy. Judgment is growth-producing when accompanied by grace, and thus is a pruning process. So one’s Biblical interpretations are to be interpreted with a goal of redemption and hope, and not oppression.