Justice and Mercy, Wrath and Love

The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created–people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. – Genesis 6:5-8 (NRSV)

Usually we do pretty well rewarding our children when they do the right thing.  It doesn’t seem to be difficult to take care of perfect children.  It would be nice to know that the wickedness of the world could never enter into our family by effect or influence.  But let’s be honest, there are times that we are angry with our children.  They act or speak in a way that triggers a response in us.  Unlike God, we have to question the origin of the response.

When God responded to the sinfulness of man in Noah’s day, it was the perfect response, rooted in justice and carried out in wrath.  Yet God spares Noah and his family in His mercy and love.  All of these characteristics coexist in Him without conflict or contradiction, despite what we may think.  It is this wholeness that can elude us as fathers.  Our culture has pushed against the ideas of wrath or justice in a family relationship, but it has been God’s wrath and justice that changed course for so many of His children through the years.

This is not a call to flood your child’s bedroom or build a boat (although both options may come up in the natural course of parenthood).  This is a call to bringing all of what God created fathers for into our relationships.  If we focus solely on mercy and love, our children may see us as walking mats, sinning first and begging forgiveness later.  If we stray too far toward justice and wrath, we become tyrants without any sense approachability or tenderness.  God has given us these characteristics for His good purposes, and we will be hard pressed to be complete fathers without all of them working through us.

I pray that I can strike the balance and be wise in the distribution of these characteristics; to know when justice will be more beneficial than mercy, or when wrath needs to come forward with the full backing of love.  God, help us to pursue wholeness in our lives.  Help us to be wise in how we respond to our children.  Help us to be more like you every day.  Amen.



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