I forgot to pay my charge card bill. Again.
The customer service people were nice enough to give me a reminder call allowing me to pay my bill over the phone. I asked “Janie” this: Is there any way I could talk you into granting me mercy on the late charge? As she reviewed my customer history she responded kindly, “Yes, ma’am,” then she commented, “You’ve never had one [a late charge] and you’ve been a customer since 2003!”
Well, the truth is, I’ve forgotten to pay this particular bill several times over the years. I suppose there are some excuses I can use here. First, I only use the card sporadically (translation: when there is a 30% off incentive), so there isn’t a payment due every month. Secondly, the due date is the 22nd of the month, a date that, for some reason, doesn’t always stick in my brain like the 15th and 30th. Lastly, my inbox to which the statement reminders come is jammed with over 12,000 emails. Twelve thousand. Imagine a desk piled with 12,000 pieces of paper… OK, it’s not the same thing, but it is still easy for one email to get overlooked.
Anyway, each time I have forgotten to pay the bill, the company has mercifully removed the late charge. The result is that I have a clean record. As far as Janie could tell, I’m a model customer. No black marks on my record. I’m squeaky clean.
Which brings me to contemplate mercy, the concept of not getting what I deserve. I didn’t pay those bills on time and I deserved the late charges–every single one of them. My record should’ve contained the words UNPAID and LATE CHARGE multiple times. In the credit card world I should be labeled BAD RISK. Or at least FORGETFUL MOM WHO WILL EVENTUALLY PAY IF YOU REMIND HER. But thanks to mercy, my record looks clean. Like my missed and late payments never happened. Mercy is a beautiful thing!
I know you know what’s coming. I mean, how can I write about mercy and not bring up Jesus? How can I extol the joys of a clean record without mentioning the cross? Because of Christ’s mercy, and because of His sacrifice, and because His blood covers me, my real record–the one that matters for eternity–is clean. God looks at my life, which I happen to know is positively (negatively?) brimming with sin, and He sees Christ’s righteousness.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
But He doesn’t stop at mercy. Not only does He not give us what we deserve, but He also gives us what we don’t deserve, and that is grace:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7
Yes, He could have stopped at just not punishing us for our sin. But He also showers us with grace by wrapping us in Christ’s robe of righteousness:
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness[.] Isaiah 61:10a
I can’t quite get my head around mercy and grace, but my heart knows they are real. Because God doesn’t treat me as my sins deserve, I am mercifully justified by Jesus. And my sins are just-as-if they never happened. They’re not numbered, listed, and tallied. They’re not collected and counted to make sure I haven’t exceeded my lifetime limit. All the black marks that should be there are completely washed away by the crimson blood of Jesus.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ[.] Ephesians 2:4-5
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11
So if your life record is covered with black marks because you’ve never experienced the forgiveness and justification available through Jesus Christ, know that a clean record is yours for the asking. His blood will wash away your sin and you will not get what you deserve.
On the other hand, if you do already know Jesus as your Savior, take this as a reminder that your sin is already paid for. Your record is clean. You are free to live out from under the burden of guilt because Jesus extended you mercy at the cross.
You may not always receive mercy from your credit card company, but God is ready and waiting to shower you with His mercy.
And mercy is a beautiful thing.
Janice Powell 2014
Scriptures from the New American Standard Bible Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, California.