I was Joe Cool. With a newly minted provisional driver’s license in my pocket, I drove my dad’s 1974 Chevy El Camino around town—the envy, I assumed, of all my friends. One fateful summer evening, Joe Cool cruised up the driveway through the open garage door, and mistakenly hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.

I never heard a dollar amount on the damage, but it included the steel railing protecting a stairway to the basement at the back of the garage, some concrete repair where the railing came loose, and a six horsepower Mercury boat motor that had been attached to the railing. I’ll never forget the sound of it bouncing down the concrete steps—clunk, clunk, clunk.

The stress of waiting for my parents to come home was unbearable. I was guilty. I had no defense. Joe Cool deserved whatever punishment they would choose. But, to the best of my recollection, the punishment never came. Instead, there was mercy. I walked away from my debacle scot-free, but I never forgot it.

According to God’s Word, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4b). You and I are guilty. No defense. Yet, because of Jesus Christ, and only in Jesus Christ, we failed sinners may walk away from our own debacles—scot-free. Heaven, not hell!

An ultimate happy ending, yes, but we’re not always happy with our present circumstances. Maybe far from it. Dan Venberg’s story [page 4] was disconcerting, yet a good reminder of this truth. Why not a happier ending right then and there? Why all the heartache in this life? Why don’t things turn out the way we want? Is this punishment? Where is the mercy?

If we truly comprehend the law of God, the justice of God, the meaning of sin, then we understand that anything less than our instantaneous and total destruction is rich mercy from God. Every person alive today lives and walks in God’s mercy constantly, whether they realize it or not. And greater than that for those who believe, we understand that “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4b-5a).

If that is our experience, there is only one way for us to live: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Rev. Brent Juliot is editor of Faith & Fellowship magazine, teaches math at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, and serves as pastor at Stavanger Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, MN.

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