The flip-side and companion quality of Christ’s justness is his mercifulness. He is equally just and merciful in his dealings with us. Nothing manifests these qualities as perfectly as his death and resurrection. Our sin (against God) puts us under the ownership of hell. Hell destroys; it seeks nothing less than the final and irrevocable death of every being created in God’s image. It demands death as payment for its services to us.
Under hell’s math one person must die for the sin that one person committed. My death can do nothing to mitigate someone else’s sentence.
Christ, however, submitted to hell’s punishment, having never employed its services.
Do you remember arithmetic, specifically what we learned in fourth-grade division? Any number divided by itself (6÷6, 52÷52, 99÷99) always equals one. My death (1) for my sin (1) equals one debt paid.
I wonder, if we end up in hell, do we actually suffer death in proportion to the amount of sin we’ve had in our lives? Ten million deaths for ten million sins?
Don’t quote me on that. I’m neither a theologian nor a mathematician. It’s just an interesting thought exercise.
But do you also remember what our math teachers taught us about zero? You can’t divide by zero. It’s not just illogical, it’s impossible.
When Christ went to the cross for us, a perfect and unblemished sacrifice, hell found itself trying to divide by zero. It can’t be done. Jesus caught hell in a trap of perfect justice through his perfect mercy.
Mercy took Christ to the cross. Justice through the cross paid our debt to hell.
That was and remains the outrageously final word on forgiveness.
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“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” –Matthew 9:13
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With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Amazon.com. Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.