Sacred Music Sunday: There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.Psalm 116:5
I had never heard this song until a few days ago when the choir director for the Exponent II retreat sent it to the choir members so we could rehearse in advance of the retreat. It made my soul sing when I heard it. I felt the truth of it immediately.
The whole song is lovely, but the verse that stands the most out to me is this one:
But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.
So often, when someone at church expresses that a particular policy, general conference address, lesson, or sacrament meeting talk falls short of God’s love and mercy, certain hardliners respond with Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” They weaponize this scripture to end the discussion, basically saying that anyone who is advocating for greater mercy is fighting against an angry and harsh God.
As humans, we’re inclined toward narrow-mindedness, judgementalism, community boundary policing, and ascribing our own prejudices to the Almighty. But God isn’t like that. God is love. God is grace. God is mercy. God’s ways are higher than our ways because God is kinder, more merciful, more loving, more welcoming, and more forgiving than we are. And when we draw boundaries that exclude others from our church community and proclaim that it’s God’s fault, we’re taking God’s name in vain.