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Justice and St. Patrick

Saturday, March 15, 2014

If you have lived in Chicago for more than one year you know that today is the day that the Plumber’s Union dyes the Chicago River bright green. They do it as part of their celebration of St. Patrick's Day. It is true that Ireland is a very green land due to the frequent rains. But is that what Patrick's life was about?

Patrick was not born Irish. He actually came to Ireland twice. The first time he came as a young boy captured by slave traders. After escaping his enslavement, he was called by God to go back to Ireland to proclaim the gospel. Although not the first missionary to Ireland, he was by any measure the most effective and the most famous.

In our society it is common to respond to evil, injustice, inhumanity, and other wrongs with a loud and sustained cry for justice. God is a holy God. When evil comes into his presence, His holiness is stirred into action. This judgment of evil is what we call the wrath of God. The cry for justice is a cry for evildoers to get what they deserve.

Patrick’s enslavement gave him a solid basis to cry out to God for justice. But he didn't. His message was not one of justice and the wrath of God.

Christians should always be quick to forgive. Forgiveness is the removal of the condemnation that is due to us. This is the message of mercy. Mercy is when we do not get what we deserve. Forgiveness is an act of mercy. It is very noble and commendable when a person who is been violated in some way by evil chooses not to cry out for justice but instead grants mercy.

The thrust of Patrick’s message to the Irish went beyond justice and mercy. It was the good news of grace. Justice brings us what we deserve. Mercy does not give us what we deserve. Grace is greater than both of these because grace grants us what we do not deserve.

Grace fulfills the demands of justice. Jesus Christ acted as a substitute who became the object of God’s wrath in our place. Grace fulfills the hope of mercy. It grants us the gift of forgiveness. But grace then grants us what we do not deserve: reconciliation with our Creator, freedom from the penalty and power of evil, and wholeness and peace.

I don’t how you dye a river the color of grace. But, that is the message of Saint Patrick. The message of grace so transformed Patrick that rather than calling for justice or even mercy, he became a man with a mission, a missionary. His mission was to tell the Irish the message of grace.

This Sunday we will be continuing our series on Joseph. Eventually Joseph also became a missionary, aware of the demands of justice, experienced in the transforming power of mercy, and above all a messenger of grace. But, it took time for this transformation take place. This week we will see how he dealt with temptation.

Join us tomorrow as we worship the God of grace.

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