Mercy Said, "No!"

The local news played in the background as I got ready for work one morning last month. I was half listening, half scrambling around when one particular story caught my attention. The reporter announced the execution of John Muhammad, better know in these parts as the "DC Sniper." I remembered hearing about this man randomly shooting innocent people for several weeks as they walked to their cars in parking lots or pumped gas. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, but my family and many of my friends were here. I prayed daily for their safety and for the safety all the people in the area. One of my prayers was for the person, or persons, responsible to be caught and brought to justice. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when they caught him and his accomplice. I felt even better when they were both sent to prison for the crimes they had committed. In my mind, JUSTICE had been served...

Now hearing the announcement about his execution, my honest, first gut reaction was, "See ya!" Yes, I know how heartless it sounds - or how right depending on your point of view. Still I felt pretty justified... until this weekend's message that is. Pastor Mike really set me up this week. The sermon topic was "Join The Party" and the text was the prodigal son story. I settled in for a feel good message... Boy, was I ever wrong.

This message was about the other son. Pastor dissected the word JUSTICE and talked about how we often use this word to suit us. In some cases we mean fairness, and in others we mean vengeance. (Not sure where you're going with this one Pastor, but ok...) He showed how we want to be forgiven while we want others to be judged. (The news report flashed through my mind and a pain shot through my heart? What in the world?!) I was nodding my agreement the whole time, but only because I couldn't see what was coming next... Turns out this sermon wasn't really about the prodigal son at all, it was about his brother. That's when things got ugly. I stopped nodding so much and just listened. You see, the other brother was refusing to come into the father's house and join the party. he refused to celebrate his brother's return. Instead he was hurt. He couldn't understand how the father saw fit to throw a party for the son who had left and squandered all his dad's money, while he, the son who stayed never received anything like that. It was not fair... it was not JUSTICE... (Uh oh, I've felt like that before... Ouch again!)

Pastor went on to make more great points but two of them hit me right where I live. The first was that if the father in this parable represents God, the house represents God's presence, the prodigal son represents a repentant sinner and the other son represents us (the church, the faithful, etc) then who is in God's presence and who is not? (Great, once again, that would be me...)

While I was still reeling from than one, he presented the arguments that we often give to justify our feeling that someone should get what they deserve.

"Well judgements is for people who do really bad things, like killers.."

"Oh, really? Well what about someone who kills in self defense, or in a war situation?"

"Well that's different?


That was the breaking point where I could feel my heart start to soften. Not that I condone what he did or excuse it, but that the eyes of love God looks at me with, also look at John Muhammad with THE SAME LOVE. Wow! You know what else? If I'm truthful with myself, if I were to get what I deserve the I would be on death row as well, but mercy said, 'No!' What I could not pay for myself God paid for me, but not only for me - He paid it for John Muhammad as well and for the whole world. Who am I to call for judgement on someone else while expecting mercy for myself. I'm realizing again that God's mercy isn't just for me, or just for you, it's for everyone. I'm starting to think that most of us are going to be very surprised when we see who made it to Heaven... Can't you just hear it now? The whispers as we stand in line waiting for our Heaven issued white robes and our harps "Oh my goodness, what in the world is she doing here?" or "Who let him in?" The whispers could very well apply to any of us. Thank God for his love and mercy!

So even as I type this last sentence, it has been a month since I started this post. John Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight. The cavalier attitude I had a month ago is gone. God has done a work on my heart by showing me His heart and giving me an inexplicable love and compassion for the 'undeserving.' My prayer at this point is that he would know and experience the love and mercy of God in his final hours and that he would meet Him on the other side of this life. I also pray God's grace and mercy upon you today.