Vol 2:41 The Soul of God: Advent as the Incarnation of God’s Mercy

In this Advent season, many wonder why God became a human being to dwell among us. The simple answer is that God loves us and is merciful to us. What does this mercy entail? Ray Anderson’s theological memoir, The Soul of God, has an insight.

When humanity abandoned God to try to do life on their own, we were like teenagers who know their parents know nothing. But we did not do well on our own – we ended up betraying one another, stealing from one another, accusing one another, killing one another. But God does not abandon us, God is merciful!

Anderson expresses:

“The soul of God is intrinsically a relational soul. The soul of moral theology must possess the moral instincts of love rather than the insensible letter of the law. ‘The letter kills but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor. 3:6). As suggested earlier, the intention of mercy is the creation of a new moral being. Mercy is not an abstract virtue, but a means for maintaining a relationship damaged by moral failure. Mercy is what keeps sin from being fatal” (p. 90).

He continues:

“Mercy is the motive behind God’s love for the world. This mercy is extended toward ‘all the families of the earth’ through the seed of Abraham, which extends through the generations to Jesus, according to Paul (Gen. 12; Gal. 3:16). Divine mercy guarantees forgiveness and makes reconciliation possible. Forgiveness is offered to all through Christ, and reconciliation is the intended goal. God does not want any to perish, ‘but all to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Mercy must be received in order for forgiveness to be realized as a gift of grace. The goal of grace is not merely the granting of amnesty, which often leaves the one who is estranged free of guilt, but a mercifully restoration with life in community. ‘Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy’ (1 Peter 2:9-10). Receiving mercy, experiencing forgiveness, and being reconciled to God within the people of God is to know the salvation of God” (p. 91).

Anderson shares a story that expresses how the merciful and forgiving redemptive mission of God recreates us to be merciful and forgiving as well – as a new humanity demonstrating a different reality in a world in need of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.

“In 1993, Amy Biehl, a 26 year old Fulbright Scholar, was murdered by 4 blacks in South Africa while registering voters for the nation’s first free election. Her murderers were apprehended and imprisoned. Her parents, Peter and Linda Biehl, went to Cape Town to establish a foundation with the goal of violence prevention. This foundation, named for Amy, continues to maintain a presence for peace. Under the government’s newly formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to grant amnesty for political crimes to those persons who confess and give the whole truth about their actions, the four men who murdered Amy were given full a pardon and released from prison on July 29, 1998. Commenting on this action which they supported, Amy’s parents said, ‘It is this vision of forgiveness and reconciliation that we have honored.’ They believed that this is what their daughter would have wanted. Peter Biehl then added, ‘We’re not dispensing forgiveness. We’re not God. But we support the decision.’ Releasing the men from further punishment in no way mitigated the crime, to which they confessed. Forgiveness in this case, however, was an act of mercy which the Biehls saw as an important steo in the journey toward peace and reconciliation” (pp. 91-92).

Advent, God’s coming to be among us in Jesus Christ, was not about establishing a religion in order to create further division amongst humanity, it was all about showing to us that God’s mercy is not merely an idea – God’s mercy has hands and feet that touches us deeply and personally. Jesus reaches out to us to extend God’s mercy to us so that we might experience forgiveness and reconciliation being recreated as a new humanity, restored to relationship with God, which restores us to relationship with one another.

Advent is the most earthy act of God’s mission – in Jesus, God is brought into relationship with us and we into relationship with God. May we always be open to the embodiment of God’s merciful presence in Christ Jesus.

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