Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Pity-full God

Many of us are familiar with Luke 6:36, which reads: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."  That's the standard word that we use in translation - "merciful".  It has been since the days of Wycliffe.

But it's a fascinating word in Greek.  It's not "elaison" or any of it's variants - it's οἰκτίρμων - oiktirmon, which is the classic word for pitiful or miserable.  Be someone takes pity on others, just as your Father takes pity on people.

It's an interesting way to think about it.  Sometimes we can treat the idea of "mercy" as a matter of us "being the bigger person" - where we approach the mercy that we show as a sign of how great we are, how mature we are.  We're going to be the better person here, and hence we will show mercy instead of giving them the smack down that they need.

That undersells the point.  When God sees you trapped in sin, it's not just that He spares you, or that He holds back and doesn't crush you - it's that He actually feels bad for you.  He pities you. 

Sin makes us pathetic.  It does. Sin makes us stupid and hurt and just all messed up - and God sees how just messed up we are.  And so He has compassion.  He goes "you poor thing" towards us even as we rage against Him in our sin.

We forget how terrible sin is, how it traps people, how they get caught in sin's web.  We so often think of sin as "bad choices" so that person who sins gets what they "deserve".  God doesn't view your sin as your bad choices - it's a trap that you are stuck in, that you cannot get out of.  Or as Luther would have us sing, "Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o'er me."

Maybe we should remember to pity those trapped in sin, even sins that hurt and threaten us.

1 comment:

Jon Alan Schmidt said...

That is one reason why I prefer the Common Service confession in DS3 ("a poor miserable sinner") to the modern one in DS1/DS2 ("by nature sinful and clean").