by: Allen Domelle
“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.”
One of the great failed endeavors of society is the attempt to stop people from doing wrong. Doctors call sin a disorder and try to stop it through prescription drugs, but they fail. Society has started group therapy to help people overcome addictions, but they fail because they won’t follow God’s advice on how to purge the sin. You can call sin a disorder, bad genes, blame it on their rearing, or blame previous generations for their “weaknesses,” but sin will never be purged without following God’s method.
The verse above shows God’s prescription for purging sin. How do you get a liar to stop lying? How do you get a thief to stop stealing? How do you get an alcoholic or drug addict to quit their vice? God shows us that sin is purged by mercy and truth. You will never help a person overcome sin without applying mercy and truth. Let me give you a few observations from the verse above about purging sin.
First, all mercy and no truth create a rebel. There are those who believe absolutes and administering punishment only drives a person away, but that is not true. If you constantly let a person get away with sin, they will continue to do worse the next time. Mercy with no truth will only teach a person that there are no consequences to sin.
Second, all truth and no mercy create an angry rebel. One reason many people run from a strict environment is because mercy was not exercised with the enforcement of rules. The strict environment is not the problem. The problem is having a strict environment without mercy. When a person is continually punished without mercy, they will become hateful and angry towards the strict environment and will do everything they can to spite those in that environment.
What is the answer? The answer is applying mercy and truth together. Notice that the verse above says, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged…” Both applied together is what purges sin. There must be clear lines drawn of what a person can and cannot do, and when those lines are crossed, they must be punished for crossing those line. However, mercy must be applied while the punishment is administered.
What is mercy? Mercy is treating a person as if they never did wrong while the punishment is enforced. It is not treating them like they’ve done wrong. Mercy is having a loving attitude towards the offender. Mercy helps the person being punished to keep their dignity. Mercy applied weeps with the person who is being punished because of sin. However, mercy alone will not purge them from sin.
Truth must be taught and applied with mercy so that iniquity can be purged. Truth will teach a person who has sinned why what they did was wrong so that they won’t do it again. Yes, there are consequences to sin, but teach them from the Scriptures why their actions were wrong.
What is the result of applying mercy and truth? The result is that a fear of the LORD is acquired. The verse above says, “…by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” A person will only have a fear of the LORD when mercy and truth are utilized together. If you want to help people quit sin, you are going to have to use mercy and truth to make it happen. Anything other than mercy and truth will lead to rebellion and greater sin.