If you’re a Christian you know by experience that God is merciful. Moses when he asked to see God’s glory revealed, the LORD revealed Himself not in power (which Moses had seen) but He revealed Himself with a declaration. He is a God rich in mercy, steadfast in loving kindness, slow to anger and showing compassion to generations of those who seek Him. We know God is merciful and it is His glory. But how about us, are we merciful?
I love God’s mercy when it comes to my personal need of mercy but I often find that I want justice when I’m offended or when someone has committed are heinous crime. I was reminded of this recently, when hearing about Shamima Begum, the notorious Jihadi Bride who instead of going to school as a 15 year old fled the UK to join ISIS. Now she wants to come back, my reaction was she shouldn’t be allowed back into the UK, she knew what she was doing. However, I’ve seen some beautiful examples of notorious sinners receiving mercy in Scripture, take King Manasseh for example, son of King Hezekiah. While Hezekiah was a godly king his son Manasseh was bad to the bone. The LORD says of him in 2 Chronicles chapter 33, that he had ‘done much evil’. That’s probably the worst thing the holy, holy, holy God could say of you. Yet there is a but and it’s massive, because in the very same chapter it says that God humbled Manasseh and he cried out to the LORD and the LORD heard the cry of Manasseh. Manasseh it seems was converted, not only that, he’s in the line of Christ (as is Ahab- but that’s another story for another time). Despite being a chief of sinners, it seems he’s a trophy of grace. Then of course there is the well known Jewish Jihadi, Saul. Imagine being a 1st century Jewish Christian living in exile and having your family be a victim of Saul’s persecution only to find out that he’s on the preaching rota for next week? How would you respond?
It’s unlikely when the lockdown is over that Shamina Begum is going to show up at our church but how would you respond if she did? I’ve changed my mind on how I’d react through the testimony of a young woman called Esther Ahmed. Esther Ahmed, she grew up in Pakistan in a radicalised Muslim family. She was devoted and had literally agreed to give her life in Jihad. Yet during this time she found she couldn’t pray to Allah in Arabic during the set times, so she called out to God in Hindi and asked if He would hear her. The next day she met a Christian and she heard from him over the coming weeks the glorious gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ and her life was slowly transformed. She ended up fleeing for her life, marrying a Christian, becoming a refugee and showed up at a church in a new country while she sought refugee status elsewhere. The pastor when he heard she was a former Muslim jokingly asked, “You’re not a terrorist are you?” She felt shame even though she knew he was joking. Through God’s providence the young couple and their family were assigned refugee status and sent to the deep south of the US, the Bible belt. The last place that a former jihadist would be expected to turn up.
A friend of mine prior to his conversion was a bad lad and his wife was a bad lass. They each shared their testimony at their church here in the Highlands and were told off by several people in the congregation for revealing their sin. Yet it was because they could acknowledge their sin that they could also experience the mercy of God. I had listened online and was brought to tears at the mercy of God in their life.
Who knows who might show up in our lives to challenge us to be merciful? We who have been shown mercy should extend mercy to others, to the glory of God.