There are times when Christians are accused of being a bunch of downers. I have no doubt that there are plenty of times throughout the Church’s history where that was an accurate assessment. But there is another side to it that is often missed by those who don’t understand how it all fits together to bring infinite hope and joy. The passage for this Sunday brings this truth to light. Psalm 51 begins with the following statement.
“Have mercy on me, O God…”
Some people will read that prayer and say, “That is exactly what I’m talking about, what a negative way to start the day and view life!” But I read that opening statement as a foundational need and reality for my life. This brief statement sets my heart in the right place for relating to God and people. In this simple sentence I declare God’s holiness, His relational intimacy to me, His desire to meet my needs and it also removes any reason for me to think I am better than anyone else.
I want to help people understand that I am not being negative when I say “I am a sinful person” or “the world is broken or dark.” All I am doing is being honest and truthful. If I do this rightly and with a winsome countenance I might be able to help someone to see that I am the one that possesses hope and joy that transcends the “downside” of truth. It isn’t with arrogance I claim to possess this “good stuff”; it is with a thankful heart that overflows.
The conclusion to the opening sentence in Psalm 51 is why this is not negative at all. It brings me to a place of confidence and freedom.
“according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”
The love, compassion and forgiveness of God are clearly displayed in Jesus. He is my savior and my friend. I make that bold statement not on my own merit or worthiness. I declare it with assurance because Jesus has claimed me as His friend. He did this because I needed Him to come to me. So, instead of it being a negative to talk about things such as sin, brokenness, fear or my inadequacies, it is actually just the beginning of the sentence that ends with grace, peace, hope and joy.
But to get to all the good stuff we need to own the fact that it comes to us as a gift from God. When I understand my need for mercy I will begin to love God and people the right way. It is like unlocking the mystery of life, for all of eternity but also for the here and now.
Have mercy on me, O God,
Pastor Nick Mundis