Responding to God’s Mercy
March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior 2 Posts, “Responding to God’s Goodness” and “Responding to God’s Grace”, these attributes of His were addressed. What followed from these for us were attitudes and perspectives to adopt as well as duties, obligations, and responsibilities concerning right thought and action necessary to fulfill our purpose in life to know God. In the present Post, the same approach will be applied regarding God’s Attribute of Mercy.
In yet another prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy”, these attributes of His were established. Concerning the last, Mercy, it was stated that God’s Essence entails Perfect Singularity, Simplicity, and Unlimited Unity. He is All-Perfect in that His Being cannot be added to or reduced; compromised or changed. God, Pure-Actuality and void of any potentiality, possesses all of His Attributes in full and, thus, lacks and, therefore, desires nothing.
In contrast and relative to God’s Perfection, His Creation is imperfect. It is multiplicative; comprised of many individual parts. Creation is complex and made up of contingencies. It is limited, finite, and exists in various stages of actuality and potentiality. Creation’s individual qualities can be added to, reduced, compromised, or change. To consider Creation as “imperfect”, however, is only to speak of degree for it is perfect in the sense that it was created by God, an All-Perfect Being. The point here is that compared to Him, Creation does not consist of the same type of perfection.
With the descriptions, meanings, and differences in mind of God’s and Creation’s perfection, one further idea need be mentioned prior to addressing His Mercy and what attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities follow for us in fulfilling our purpose in life to know Him. This concerns God’s Sustenance of Creation. While at the instant of Creation, God’s Creative Power and Act manifested itself in the world’s coming into existence, said existence has since required continued and ongoing sustenance. Thus, He is not only responsible for having Created; but also for Sustaining. Entirely dependent upon God’s Will and Providence , Creation cannot be conceived of as possessing the ability to maintain its own existence. No, it is literally at the mercy of God for its ongoing being and subsequent flourishing. Thus, in this most basic sense, His Mercy is apparent relative to Creation.
A deeper understanding of God’s Mercy can be had when further considering His role as Sustainer of Creation combined with His Perfection. This, in turn, allows for the identification of what we intend to formulate in this Post; attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities for us to adhere to in following our purpose in life to know God. To that end, consider the previously stated differing degree of perfection which exists between Him and Creation. Also, keep in mind God’s Sustenance of that Creation. Thus, the question arises, why would He bother to Sustain Creation at all given its relative imperfect nature? We already know that God’s continually renewed and perpetual Gift serves the purpose of allowing Him to be known. However, consider what this requires of God. That He cares to Sustain the world at all is remarkable, given His Perfection and consequent lack of and desire of nothing. Yet God has and continues to do so. What can we gather from this but that His Mercy entails acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding? Acceptance of that which is less than God; compassion for its lacking; forgiveness for its shortcomings; and understanding of its circumstance.
As a worldly analogy, consider Sid. Sid was my first pet cat, some years ago, who unfortunately fell prey to a neighborhood coyote, we think. We loved him unconditionally, despite his imperfections. Sid didn’t have the human capacity, like us, to communicate or reason; but we praised his “smarts”. He didn’t use the toilet to relieve himself, preferring his litter box instead which required our daily cleaning. Sid, like most cats, had an inexplicable penchant for tipping over the garbage and clawing incessantly at our Berber carpet and upholstered furniture; but we always forgave him. After all, we recognized that his indiscretions were explainable by long and boring hours of solitude in the house during which time any prospect of feline entertainment was minimal at best; particularly after his brother Joe as well went the way of the survival of the fittest by the claws and fangs of the same neighborhood predator. So by all accounts, Sid was really a nuisance; but we loved him nonetheless and always saw to it that his needs were met. In a sense, we sustained him; at least until the screen door was accidentally left ajar and his fate was sealed following his escape into the rough and tumble reality of the greater animal kingdom.
Hopefully, the analogy of Sid at least somewhat illustrates the point made regarding God’s Perfection and Sustenance of Creation to more fully understand His Mercy. What follows from this are values of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. As God sows them within and for His Creation, so too should we as part of it; for ourselves, other people, things, and Creation as a whole in general. These attitudes and perspectives are necessary to fulfill our purpose in life to know God and spawn as well certain duties, responsibilities, and obligations to carry out while on that path. The latter include giving and being of service to others which were more fully considered in the prior Post, “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”. Therein, a new perspective was suggested concerning our relationship with others relative to their fulfillment of their purpose in life and the duty that we have to assist them. Having now considered God’s Mercy, we can add to our list of obligations to act generally in our dealings with other people and things with acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Others burden us with their physical, mental, and spiritual limitations; accept them as God does us; for so too are we incomplete compared to Him. Others frustrate us with their perceived ignorant and myopic views; have and exhibit compassion for them as God does for us; for so too is our understanding lacking compared to His. Others offend us with their faults and moral shortcomings; forgive them unconditionally as God does us. Others annoy us with the dramatic circumstances they have created for themselves; seek to objectively understand them as God does us.
Yet more follows from God’s Mercy other than our attitudes and duties towards others of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. This is the value of Equality of all people. It could have just as appropriately been addressed in our consideration of God’s Goodness in “Responding to God’s Goodness”; but that Post was voluminous enough with respect to the perspectives and obligations which followed from it. Thus, we will handle Equality here.
That God Created and Sustains other people’s existence is more than enough to warrant our respect for them. In His Plan for us, they are no different by comparison. We all exist with the same purpose in life to know God. Regardless of gender, age, race, nationality, or viewpoint, with us other people assume equal footing relative to our shared reason for existence. Most of these differences are beyond anyone’s control; we cannot influence whether we are male or female, young or old, black or white, or typically what country we call home. Its not even worth the time to consider these factors as affecting a person’s equality either in the world or relative to God. But concerning others people’s ideas and even choices, something further can be said. While these may differentiate the quality of their material lives and affect whether they ultimately fulfill their purpose in life, these shouldn’t affect their equal standing with others in the world. Rather, ideas and choices are the domain of God and His relationship with them. If thought and action is carried out contrary to God’s Will and what is necessary to fulfill their purpose in life, what consequence is that to us? In this sense, the value of Equality spawns as a corollary a duty to refrain from judging others.
However, might this viewpoint discourage any arrangement of a system of criminal justice in which lawbreakers, most of the time clearly acting in opposition to God’s Will and fulfillment of their purpose in life, are ignored and granted amnesty to behave as they wish in detriment to others? While reasonable, this question misses the point. An effective and fair criminal justice system is necessary, in fact, in order to protect law-abiding members of society, rehabilitate criminals, and deter crime in general. More will be stated on this topic in the next Post in which God’s Attribute of Justice is addressed. Suffice it to say for now that a necessary system of criminal justice does not entail presumption that people are unequal as a result of their transgerssions or that they should be judged for them. Rather, it serves to promote a safe and peaceful society in which those who seek to fulfill their purpose in life can do so unobstructedly; educate the incarcerated to recognize their purpose in life and instruct them how to fulfill it; and discourage crime and other errant behavior so as to further promote a safe and peaceful society in tune with the Will of God.