10 May MERCY – A Calling and a Covering
Just earlier this week my four-year-old daughter, Eleanor, sinned against her twin sister, Maggie. Okay, well, she just ate her french fry, but still, to a four-year-old that’s almost unforgivable. Naturally, Maggie got upset and immediately Eleanor apologized, followed by an “it’s okay, I forgive you” from her sister. Directly after this exchange, Eleanor cowered under a chair in shame hiding. When my husband saw this, he said, “Eleanor, Maggie has forgiven you. You need to act like you’re forgiven.”
And those words hit me like a ton of bricks. ACT LIKE YOU’RE FORGIVEN. Oh, how I need to do the same. Instead of cowering under a chair bearing my guilt that Jesus already bore, I should be wearing His forgiveness like a fine garment. After all, God has called me into His mercy, and with His mercy He covers my every sin: past, present, and future.
In Matthew 22, Jesus tells The Parable of the Wedding Guest, in which a wealthy king is throwing a festive and over-the-top wedding banquet for his son. Stick with me here while I hash out the events in this parable. In the time this story was being told, invitations to such elaborate events went out in advance to allow people to prepare. And when the time came, the guests were summoned to come at once and enter into feasting and celebrating in style. Just as expected, the time came for the king’s guests to be summoned. But when his servants went out to gather those who had been invited to the banquet; the guests refused to come. When the king was informed of this, he sent his servants out to summon the invited guests yet again, this time sweetening the deal. “Tell them I’ve prepared dinner, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered. Everything is ready – come!” But again, those who were invited paid no attention – one went to his own farm, one to his business, and the rest mistreated his servants and even killed them. But the king was determined. The celebration would still go on! Finally, he asked his remaining servants to summon anyone they saw on the streets in the city, both evil and good. And soon the banquet hall was filled with guests. As the king entered to see his guests, a man catches his eye. This man was not dressed in fine garments. He was in his street clothes, not suitable for a fine wedding feast. He asked the man, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?” The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
When I first came across this story, I was confused and unsettled. But these events that appeared to be far from merciful, upon further investigation and teaching, have revealed two crucial characteristics of God’s unrelenting mercy.
- Mercy is a calling: And as we know, it is not just a calling to the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well (Ephesians 3:6). Just like the king’s final invitation, at his expense, he opened the invitation to ANYBODY, the good and the bad; just as God, in His mercy, calls anyone who will accept the call of mercy. Being worthy of mercy has nothing to do with your record, your socioeconomic status, your bank account, your job, or your standing in the church. You enter in, not by being perfect, but by admitting that you are not. Accepting this call of mercy involves being able to recognize the King’s “wedding banquet” for what it is and responding to it as one’s top priority. There is no baggage in your past that is too big, too bad, or too weighty. Because Mercy is not only a calling, it is also a covering.
- Mercy is a covering: Since the King has opened the banquet to anyone, guests are coming from the streets outside the city; rich, poor, social outcasts, church officials, etc. The original guests had save the dates – they knew it was coming and could prepare, but those from the streets came with nothing. So of course the man in his street clothes did not arrive to the wedding in garments worthy of a wedding feast. The last ones invited had no warning. They were literally taken off the streets. So we can assume that garments appropriate for such a feast were provided, at the King’s expense, to the guests at the door. Anyone can show up, but He clothed them at the door. Reiterating the truth of God’s kingdom. God is saying, “I’m the One Who calls and I’m the One Who covers.” He comes and covers our shame and clothes us in His righteousness. However, this man did not accept the covering freely given at the door. He chose to stay in his rags, where he was complacent and comfortable, and, for whatever reason, did not accept the covering of the royal robes provided. And when confronted by the King, he was speechless. He had no excuse. And he was thrown out in the darkness.
Listen to me, here: God, in His mercy takes anyone, and God in His justice requires that they come in the covering under the sacrifice of Christ. This is how we are seen blameless, white as snow. Under, and only under, the covering of Christ. Mercy and justice are no longer a paradox, but they work together beautifully through the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:18 says, “Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” Are you showing up with your own sacrifice? No matter how good and pure that sacrifice might be, it’s not enough. Our rags are not enough. Are you tired and weary of trying to prove that they are? Only the covering that has come under the sacrifice of Jesus is worthy of such a banquet as Heaven.
Accept the call. Put on the covering. And, act forgiven.
- In what ways are you showing up with your own sacrifice? Are you tired and weary of trying to prove that your own sacrifice is enough?
- What is keeping you from accepting the covering of God’s beautiful Mercy? Shame, doubt, feeling you are unworthy?
- In what ways can you accept this covering and start living like you are forgiven?