“My heart is still far from You O Lord… not near enough, not near enough…”
Have you ever allowed yourself to enter into the depths of Christ’s humiliation on the Cross? I haven’t. It is a sacred place I am not prepared to enter. Not yet.
But this morning I entered into the scene of the soldiers dividing the Lord’s garments after having crucified him (Jn 19:23-24). It’s a scene I have read, heard and seen acted out hundreds of times… but for the first time it forced me to stop and enter. There Jesus was, hanging naked in excruciating agony above his executioners who were blithely gambling over his last earthly possession. There Jesus was – loving them…FORGIVING them… even as they were humiliating him in his agony.
Can the human heart really be so hard – so without compassion, without feeling? The atrocities that human beings commit to fellow human beings throughout the history of humankind affirm that the human heart is capable of great evil. More chillingly, I know that I too am capable of such hardness of heart and blindness… that I too have the capacity to commit great evil. Worse still, might I not be as blind as those soldiers at the foot of the Cross, oblivious to the sins I have committed, laughing in the face of Mercy?
That’s when it struck me – God’s mercy is a scandal to the human mind. It is in extremely poor taste, utterly incomprehensible, and intolerable. Perhaps that is why so many of us refuse His mercy. We do not even wish to come near it. We would rather wallow in distorted ideas about God’s justice or insipid, oversentimentalised notions of God’s love. But His mercy we dare not approach even though perhaps in some deep, hidden part of our being, we unknowingly long for it.
And we are right to be scandalised; we are right to fear God’s mercy, because it is Mercy that slices through impenetrable hatred and sin-hardened souls. It is Mercy that strips our soul naked and bid us walk in the Garden with God once more, free from shame. It is Mercy that forces us to face up to the truth that we have become everything we have feared to become and yet we are loved as we are; and Mercy it is that places us completely alone before the One who knows our thoughts before we even form them. Mercy is what a sinner fears the most.
Yet I know that I am scandalised because I am still on this side of Mercy. I can say something of it because I have experienced it multiple times since my last major conversion experience 6 years ago. But I know that was all still merely a prelude. I know because I still find God’s mercy scandalous.
So I need to be scandalised further. My soul needs to be stripped naked some more. More truth awaits me about how I have been distorted by sin. I know all this will give me pain… I grimace to recall the humiliations I had experienced in my prior encounters with Mercy. I fear it, yet I pray for it. For as impossible as it may seem now, I hope the day may come when I might be given the grace to forgive from my cross, and to scandalise others with Christ’s mercy.