When he asked me the question, I knew I’d heard that type of question before. It was one of those, “What if a person is doing…,” questions that ended with, “Will that person get to go to heaven or hell?” He was calling someone’s morality into question, and I could tell by how he asked, he wasn’t really asking the question because he wanted to know, but because he wanted to trap me with the question. It was the same thing the Pharisees did to Jesus on many occasions.
My answer was simple, “That’s totally up to God. He’s the one who makes the decisions on who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.”
I could tell my answer frustrated him. Redness was building from his neck up to his face. “I knew that’s what you’d say,” he said with a frustrated tone. “I don’t even know why I asked you. You’re too soft on people.”
I smiled and told him, “I’m sorry, but I got out of judging business long ago. Who gets in and who doesn’t is not not my place to decide. But”, I told him, “If I’m going to err on one side or the other, I’d rather err on the side of mercy.” He didn’t like that much either.
I left feeling good about my answer. I still feel the same way today. I think Jesus was a perfect example when it came to being gracious to others. Remember how Jesus acted around those whose lives weren’t exactly to what God wanted? A prostitute, a wealthy exploiter, a Samaritan woman with several husbands, a woman caught in adultery – all people that Jesus would have had a problem with their lifestyle. Yet all found grace and mercy from Jesus instead of condemnation. No wonder Jesus gained the reputation as being a “friend of sinners.” Maybe we can learn a lot about how to treat people by watching Jesus in action.
When I stand before God someday, if I’m found guilty of anything, I want to be found guilty of being too gracious, too forgiving and too merciful. I feel I have a better chance with God that way than I do if I’m found too harsh, too judgmental and too unsympathetic.
“You’re too soft on people,” that guy said to me that day. Well if too soft means too merciful … then I pray I’m guilty as charged!
“So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment.” ~ James 2:13