This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Rich in mercy

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved- “(Eph 2:4-5 NRSV).

In preparation for Lent, I have read and reflected on several pieces of Scripture, especially texts from the New Testament, but Ephesians 2 stood out the most. This Scripture is rich and filled with theological terms. Therefore, I would like to approach this text of Ephesians from the perspective of God’s mercy and love. In such an approach, I truly find hope for a better tomorrow.

Before moving on, I have to disclose and admit that I have been wrestling a lot with many issues that affect me. There are two issues that I believe have a direct impact in our lives: The first one is our current political turmoil and the second one is the lack of media objectivity.

In the political arena, the current race for public office demonstrates a clear evidence of a broken and messed up political system. An overall view of such a race shows that it is filled with xenophobia, hatred, verbal and physical acts of violence, discrimination and replete with promises that candidates will somehow ease the pain and fix the problems of the inhabitants of this nation.

In the media arena, I find it lacking its “true path”—to provide its audience with an impartial and objective report that will inform people instead of being concerned with ratings. I want to believe that good journalism brings good ratings. So far, the press has missed great opportunities to take a stand on various issues in society and redeem true journalism in doing so.

It is in the face of these two sentiments and with an unknown future that I enter Holy Week. In spite of this hard reality, clinging to my faith in Christ, his life and teachings, is where I find true hope and a true north for the days ahead.

On the other hand, I say that life itself is very hard and there is no doubt about it! Sometimes experiencing hardship in life make us feel alone and abandoned. A lot of times in my life, I have felt like life is not fair at all.

As I have expressed it before, many of us are emotionally and spiritually broken.

Perhaps many of us have had bruises and lacerations to the heart due to many sufferings. Probably some people among us have gone through very rough patches in life  that created painful memories and deep wounds to the heart and soul.

Sometimes adversity and affliction tend to push us to experience loneliness and abandonment. Such is the pain that we tend to suppress such experiences and their memories because, humanly speaking, we feel like life is fading away.

While experiencing adversity, sorrow and pain in life, one might be tempted to pray for a great power to not only hold back our painful experiences, but if possible, to erase them for good from one’s mind and heart. No wonder why the mental health professionals and clergy encounter difficulty in helping us!

But you know what? Let us not blame ourselves only. Instead, let us find the courage and inspiration to live a life abundantly.

Friends, let us continue walking the path towards God. Whether our affliction is due to our sinful ways or not, God is rich in mercy and in power to lift us up and to save us.

In spite of having the Spirit of Christ, the church is not immune to pain and suffering. On the contrary; church members have gone or are going through painful experiences in life, causing a sense of abandonment and unworthiness as well.

We need to continue believing that when we cry to God in the midst of our troubles, he can save us from distress and deliver us from destruction. We are not alone, because in the midst of the shadows of life, God is present.

It is in the midst of such distress in life that a Palm Sunday image comes to mind. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that day, the crowd cried out loud and at the top of their lungs, “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matthew 21:9 NIV).  It was not only about a loud exclamation of joy; it was more of a cry of despair, a cry for freedom, a cry to be saved. The crowd wanted to be set free from the heavy, oppressing Roman boot. 

I am not saying that one has to suffer or that one has to be oppressed in order to enjoy fullness of life. What I am saying is that life is very complex and we need to face it as it comes to us!

But it is also true that most of the time, I don’t know how to face such complexities in my life.

It is in the midst of such complexity in life, that I have found Scripture, prayer and faith in God to be my true stronghold.

The Bible, especially the book of Psalms, helps us to understand human life in its totality, describing life full of dreams and hopes, shortcomings and failures, just to name a few experiences. But above all, Scripture tells us to seek and find God in the midst of life experiences.

We need to admit that beyond all human comprehension and assumptions, God knows us very well and he loves us deeply. Why? Because God is rich in mercy.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved- “(Eph 2:4-5 NRSV).

The way I view and understand life in light of the letter to the Ephesians is that divinity and humanity intertwine in every human activity whether we are aware or not, including the times of affliction in one’s life.

In spite of the afflicting situations in our lives, there is hope. Hope in a new and better tomorrow. But because of my human limitations, I fall short when it comes to understanding God.

In any case, our text is very clear; it is about God’s initiative to meet the sinful human condition, through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In a nutshell, those in Christ have been set free from sin’s dominion. They are now a new creation!

As a new creation, our perspective in life tends to take a different turn. It does not mean that we will not be afflicted by the experiences in life. No, we are not immune to pain and suffering. And yet we are not alone. We have God in our corner.

Every challenge in life can be seen as an opportunity to grow and to do better, making out of us a more spiritually competent humanity. In the midst of affliction we can grow stronger, too.

It is through Scripture, prayer and life experiences that we can discover what kind of life God has in store for us.

Image: Chopin Plaza in Miami, Florida. Photo provided. 

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