The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath . . .
In the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy . . .
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1, 185
I was walking outside this morning, thinking about being saved/unsaved, thinking about the nature of God, and thinking about mercy. I know that Christian theology holds that a person must believe in Jesus Christ in order to spend eternity in heaven, but I’m having a really hard time with that concept.
Because I’m a parent, I can relate to God as the ultimate parent, the father of us all. And I know that I always will forgive my children and want them to be in my life. God loves all of us equally. (You know how people say that mere mortal parents cannot truly love their children equally? That although parents may deny it, they have a favorite? God’s not like that.) So if God can love that nasty man at the fish market who beats his dog just as much as He loves Mother Theresa, then God is indeed the perfect father.
Undoubtedly people will go to their death not accepting Jesus, either because they refused to believe or they were never exposed to Christianity. Since God is the ultimate father, won’t He forgive them? I know that in biblical terms it may be just to deny eternal bliss to a non-believer but isn’t mercy a higher quality than justice? Won’t God cut them a break because of His ultimate mercy?
In the Old Testament, Habakkuk prayed to God, saying, “. . . in wrath remember mercy.”
God loves all of His creation, so I figure He wants all of us to be with Him for eternity, whether we’ve toed the line or not. If my teenage son flunked physics and came home past his curfew and was growing marijuana in his room, eventually I would forgive him. And if he flunked physics and came home past his curfew and was growing marijuana in his room and pleaded with me to let him go to the family reunion in Altoona, I’d let him go. Because I love my son and I want him with me, even if he has been a jerk.
I want to believe that God’s mercy trumps His justice. I want to believe, although I will never merit salvation, that God’s mercy will get me through the pearly gates. And I want to believe that His mercy extends even to those who don’t believe in Him.
Jesus’s own words: Blessed are the merciful. Matthew 5:7