We are not really OK, and we know it. Even the great apostle Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”[Romans 7:15] Is there anyone who cannot, in their heart of hearts, say the same? To consider how we measure up to God’s standards is to soon realize that we most certainly do not. What we do about it is up to us. We can pretend that we are fine. We can recognize the truth of our shortcomings and despair. Or we can pay attention to Jesus, who is God come into the world, to see how he wants to deal with us. When we do, when we look at Jesus, we see his hand is open to us, and in his open hand is the thing we need most: mercy.

What is this mercy that Jesus offers? Mercy is the quality of treating people better than they deserve. This is what God does to us. Compassion, forbearance, leniency, clemency, kindness, forgiveness, magnanimity, grace, these are all qualities of mercy, and every one of them is offered by God to us.

The way we know this is true is simply by looking at and listening to Jesus. In the Gospels, on every occasion, without exception, when someone asks Jesus for mercy, be it in atonement for sins or a request for healing, Jesus gives it. He has mercy on the adulteress caught in the act that others wanted to condemn [John 8:3-11], he has mercy on a foreign woman asking for help for her possessed daughter [Mark 7:24-30]. His mercy extends to people with leprosy who were exiled from their communities [Luke 5:12-13], even ten at once [Luke 17:11-14]. He has mercy on blind people seeking their sight [Matthew 9:27-31], the lame, the possessed [Matthew 17:14-18], the deaf and mute [Mark 7:31-37], and the paralyzed, on one occasion even forgiving a paralytic’s sins before healing him, without even being asked [Matthew 9:1-8]. He raises to life children who have died: the only son of a widow [Luke 7:11-15], and a man’s twelve year old daughter [Mark 5:21-43]. When he is touched illicitly for healing by a woman who was ill (she was ritually unclean), he not only heals her and refuses to condemn her for touching him, he praises her for her faith [Mark 5:24-34]. When others complain about Jesus showing mercy to social outcasts, he points out that God desires mercy, not sacrifice [Matthew 9:13, 12:7]. Jesus tells the people of his time, and us, to have mercy towards others [Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 18:23-35], because the mercy we are being asked to show is so much less than the mercy that God has already shown to us. Indeed, St Paul describes God as being “rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us” [Ephesians 2:4]. This great love is the love referred to by Jesus when he points out that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” [John 3:16]. But this is truly good news, because it means we need not look to God with anxiety, worried how much better he is than us and how poorly we compare. Instead, we can look to him with hope, because he, although kingly, looks at us from his royal throne not with a condemning glare, but a compassionate eye, full of love and mercy. This is why the Bible tells us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”[Hebrews 4:16]

Indeed, we can have confidence in approaching God, because even though God knows very well that we do not measure up and we do not deserve to be saved, he does it anyway. He saves us not because we are entitled to be saved, but because he wants to. He wants to, because he loves us. God loves us not because we deserve to be loved, or because we have earned it (we have not!) but because he chooses to. He is God, is he not free to do what he wishes? Well, this is what he wishes. Jesus shows us that God loves us unconditionally, even when we don’t deserve it.

This is why we don’t need to despair about our shortcomings. And we also don’t have to pretend that we are OK when we know in our hearts that we are not. We can do better than pretense: we can actually become OK, if we humbly ask Jesus for help. If we go to him with our shortcomings, we will find that instead of condemning us for them, he will sort us out, if we allow him. Jesus will save us by making us good. This is what Jesus is about, this is why Jesus comes, this is who Jesus really is. The very meaning of the name Jesus is “The Lord is salvation”.  So let us not delay. Let us go to Jesus in hope, relying completely on his mercy and love. He will not condemn us, he will save us, and he will make us good.

Agapios Theophilus

Agapios Theophilus

Agapios Theophilus is the "nom de plume" of a catholic layman who has loved Jesus from when, as a young boy in the 1970s, he first learned about him. His First Communion, at the age of seven, was the happiest day of his life, and he celebrates its anniversary each year. He lives in a large city with his beloved wife, two wonderful children, and an affectionate orange and white cat. He has no formal qualifications whatsoever to write about Jesus: he writes only because he has been given the great gift of knowing and loving him, and he would like others to come to know and love him too. See Agapios' posts at and follow Agapios on twitter at

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