. Posted in 2013 Lenten Readings

In Genesis 18 we listen in on a conversation between Abraham and God over the fate of Sodom. Knowing that his nephew lives in that doomed city, Abraham tries to manipulate God by reminding him of his justice. “Will you sweep away the place and not forgive the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”

It sounds like pure manipulation. And yet, God allowed Abraham to do just that. What Abraham was doing seems somewhat like the insight shared by a psychiatrist who noted that manipulative behavior is often the way in which powerless persons communicate, And God let that behavior happen.

We too come to God with our intercessions and petitions seeking to stretch his justice into mercy. We too may come with a politeness like Abraham did—or, we may go right for the mercy. And we, who often feel powerless to help someone in need, call upon God on their behalf. We can’t come demanding fairness from God, because, as with Abraham, it’s really mercy that we want. And so, we get right to the point.

I heard of someone who repeatedly comes before God in prayer for others, who comes with a whole list of people in need, and this person commits his list to God’s mercy. His prayer sounds something like this: O Lord Jesus Christ, I come to look with you at these persons (and then he goes over the list of names, and then continues with this version of the Lord’s Prayer), Our Father, May your name be hallowed in these persons. May they experience the coming of your kingdom in their lives. Mould their wills to conform to your will. Give them day by day the gifts they need. Forgive them and help them be forgivers. Make them victorious in times of trial, and save them from every evil in their lives.

God invites us to come as Abraham did, and perhaps to skip the justice part, and to go directly to asking for mercy; for the good news is that his justice stretches into mercy.

Submitted by Pastor John Nieman