Receiving mercy leads to…bold sin?

You’ve just been caught doing something unlawful and harmful to others. You are stopped by the authorities. Time passes and you realize you will not be held accountable for your crimes. There will be no court case. There will be no punishment.

Would this make you more likely or less likely to continue your criminal activities?

My wife is reading a biography of US President Andrew Johnson. Johnson was VP under Lincoln and thus became president after Lincoln’s assassination. Johnson was roundly hated by both abolitionists and southerners. Fellow southerners saw him as a sell-out and abolitionists hated his obvious racist beliefs.

The biography noted that southerners were quite worried that they would face many northern reprisals for their actions during the Civil War. Not only were these reprisals not forthcoming, Johnson provided clemency to many of Confederate leadership. The biographer points out that when it was clear that individuals weren’t going to be held accountable, there seemed to be an increase in racial hatred and violence against freed slaves.

I know post Civil War politics was more complex than my simplistic statement above. And yet, consider this: can mercy embolden more sin? In fact, it may provide that temptation to sin more. Consider St. Paul’s comments in Romans 6. Do we sin more since we receive grace? Apparently, he felt the need to comment on this because we might be inclined to think that a free pass allows us to keep on going down the wrong road.

Just in case you think I’m suggesting we shouldn’t be merciful to sinners, I am NOT saying that. I’m grateful for unmerited favor in my life. I need more of it. However, let us be careful to recognize that mercy may produce in us something other than humble repentance.


Filed under Historical events, Repentance, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Receiving mercy leads to…bold sin?

  1. I’ll have to think about this. Not sure I agree. We’ll always have a choice in how we respond to mercy — repentance or continued sin.

    In my life, mercy has brought me back time and time again. Mercy has helped me find the underlying cause for my sinful choices, and changed me from the inside out far more than any punishment could have.

  2. D. Stevenson

    What is mercy?

    I found this quote: Mercy is grace’s effect on justice.


    I wonder if mercy must be bonded with justice to be fully mercy. Perhaps they are as two sides of one coin. Mercy presupposes judgment. I wonder what it means, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

    Perhaps escaping all consequences for ones sin is something other than mercy. Perhaps it is merciful to call the person to account. God disciplines those he loves. Perhaps storing up wrath for the day of judgment is connected to God allowing some to escape punishment.

    Consider a man, ostensibly a Christian man, who rapes children. We say this demands justice. What does this mean? -demands- What does justice mean?

    It seems to me that mercy and justice are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that exposing the corruption to light not only brings a measure of justice but also extends mercy to the man. In life there is no penalty large enough to pay for that offense. Paying just a portion means mercy pays the rest. Judgment is itself mercy.

    When I sin, I want God’s merciful judgment towards me.

    I can’t think of words. I just know, somehow, if that man experiences the consequences of judgment, there is mercy. If allowed to continue as if the sin was never done, there is no mercy.

  3. Scott Knapp

    The ability to repent of sin is God’s gift, and without that gift and prompting of the Holy Spirit, any momentary regret of sinning will eventually drift back into callousness and chasing after the sin. Even the beautiful light of forgiveness is forgotten by the sin-sick soul after a time, and it chases back to the darkness it calls home.

  4. Robert

    Definitely not a simple answer here Phil. I wonder about Paul saying that Gods kindness leads to repentance??? I think it can be tied into how we view God. Do we relate and experience Him as loving,full of grace,mercy & forgiveness?? Or, do we relate to Him as a strict,severe,demanding and wrathful Presence wanting us to pay for our sins?? Do you see in your practice over the years that your clients parents or authority figures in their lives affected in a deep way how they viewed and related to God???

    • Lou

      Paul does not say that God’s kindness leads to repentance. In 1 Pe 3.9, Peter says that God wishes all would come to repentance. The quote for 2 Ti 2.25 is… “perhaps” [God may] grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

      True repentance comes from God; through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is not something we dredge up from within ourselves. It is literally a Holy Spirit “changed mind (μετάνοια)”. Allowing us to begin to see our sin from God’s perspective. This probably explains why some change and others do not.

      It is easy for us to convince ourselves that we have repented and all is forgiven. Thus, we are admonished to judge the fruit of our lives after repentance. Herein is the proof.

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