God’s Mercy and Tolerance Are Not Rare—Man’s True Repentance Is
Regardless of how angry God had been with the Ninevites, as soon as they declared a fast and donned sackcloth and ashes, His heart began to soften and He began to change His mind. When He proclaimed to them that He would destroy their city—the moment prior to their confession and repentance for their sins—God was still angry with them. Once they had carried out a series of repentant acts, God’s anger for the people of Nineveh gradually transformed into mercy and tolerance for them. There is nothing contradictory about the coinciding revelation of these two aspects of God’s disposition in the same event. So, how should one understand and know this lack of contradiction? God expressed and revealed each of these two polar-opposite substances in turn as the people of Nineveh repented, allowing people to see the realness and the unoffendableness of God’s substance. God used His attitude to tell people the following: It is not that God does not tolerate people, or that He does not want to show mercy to them; rather, it is that they rarely truly repent to God, and it is rare that people truly turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. In other words, when God is angry with man, He hopes that man will be able to truly repent, and indeed He hopes to see man’s true repentance, in which case He will then liberally continue to bestow His mercy and tolerance upon man. This is to say that man’s evil conduct incurs God’s wrath, whereas God’s mercy and tolerance are bestowed upon those who listen to God and truly repent before Him, upon those who can turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. God’s attitude was very clearly revealed in His treatment of the Ninevites: God’s mercy and tolerance are not at all difficult to obtain, and what He requires is one’s true repentance. As long as people turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands, God will change His heart and His attitude toward them.
The Creator’s Righteous Disposition Is Real and Vivid
When God had a change of heart toward the people of Nineveh, were His mercy and tolerance a false front? Of course not! Then what has been shown by the transition between these two aspects of God’s disposition in the course of God dealing with this one situation? God’s disposition is a complete whole—it is not at all divided. Regardless of whether He is expressing anger or mercy and tolerance toward people, these are all expressions of His righteous disposition. God’s disposition is vital and vividly apparent, and He changes His thoughts and attitudes according to the way things develop. The transformation of His attitude toward the Ninevites tells humanity that He has His own thoughts and ideas; He is not a robot or a clay figure, but the living God Himself. He could be angry with the people of Nineveh, just as He could forgive their pasts because of their attitudes. He could decide to bring misfortune upon the Ninevites, and He could also change His decision because of their repentance. People like to rigidly apply rules, and to use such rules to delimit and define God, just as they like to use formulas to attempt to understand God’s disposition. Therefore, as far as the domain of human thought is concerned, God does not think, nor does He have any substantive ideas. But in reality, God’s thoughts are in a state of constant transformation according to changes in things and in environments. While these thoughts are transforming, different aspects of God’s substance are revealed. During this process of transformation, at the precise moment when God has a change of heart, what He shows to mankind is the real existence of His life, and that His righteous disposition is full of dynamic vitality. At the same time, God uses His own true revelations to prove to mankind the truth of the existence of His wrath, His mercy, His lovingkindness, and His tolerance. His substance will be revealed at any time and any place in accordance with how things develop. He possesses a lion’s wrath and a mother’s mercy and tolerance. His righteous disposition allows no questioning, violation, change, or distortion by any person. Among all matters and all things, God’s righteous disposition—that is, God’s wrath and God’s mercy—can be revealed at any time and any place. He gives vital expression to these aspects in every corner of all creation, and He implements them with vitality in every passing moment. God’s righteous disposition is not limited by time or space; in other words, God’s righteous disposition is not mechanically expressed or revealed according to the constraints of time or space, but rather with perfect ease and in all times and places. When you see God have a change of heart and cease to express His wrath and refrain from destroying the city of Nineveh, can you say that God is only merciful and loving? Can you say that God’s wrath consists of empty words? When God rages with fierce wrath and retracts His mercy, can you say that He feels no true love toward humanity? This fierce wrath is expressed by God in response to people’s evil acts; His wrath is not flawed. God’s heart is moved in response to people’s repentance, and it is this repentance that brings about His change of heart. When He feels moved, when He has a change of heart, and when He shows His mercy and tolerance toward man, all of these are utterly without flaw; they are clean, pure, unblemished and unadulterated. God’s tolerance is exactly that: tolerance, just as His mercy is nothing other than mercy. His disposition reveals wrath or mercy and tolerance in accordance with man’s repentance and the variations in man’s conduct. No matter what He reveals and expresses, it is all pure and direct; its substance is distinct from that of anything in creation. When God expresses the principles underlying His actions, they are free from any flaws or blemishes, and so are His thoughts, His ideas, and every single decision He makes and every single action He takes. Since God has thus decided and since He has thus acted, so does He complete His undertakings. The results of His undertakings are correct and faultless precisely because their source is flawless and unblemished. God’s wrath is flawless. Likewise, God’s mercy and tolerance—which are possessed by none among all of creation—are holy and flawless, and can withstand thoughtful deliberation and experience.
Through your understanding of the story of Nineveh, do you now see the other side of the substance of God’s righteous disposition? Do you see the other side of God’s unique righteous disposition? Does anyone among humanity possess this kind of disposition? Does anyone possess this kind of wrath, the wrath of God? Does anyone possess mercy and tolerance such as that which is possessed by God? Who among creation can summon forth such great wrath and decide to destroy or bring disaster upon mankind? And who is qualified to bestow mercy on man, to tolerate and pardon, and thereby change one’s prior decision to destroy man? The Creator expresses His righteous disposition through His own unique methods and principles, and He is not subject to the control or restrictions imposed by any people, events or things. With His unique disposition, no one is able to change His thoughts and ideas, nor is anyone able to persuade Him and change any of His decisions. The entirety of the behavior and thoughts that exist in all of creation exist under the judgment of His righteous disposition. No one can control whether He exercises wrath or mercy; only the substance of the Creator—or in other words, the Creator’s righteous disposition—can decide this. Such is the unique nature of the Creator’s righteous disposition!
Through analyzing and understanding the transformation of God’s attitude toward the people of Nineveh, are you able to use the word “unique” to describe the mercy found within God’s righteous disposition? We previously said that God’s wrath is one aspect of the substance of His unique righteous disposition. Now I shall define two aspects—God’s wrath and God’s mercy—as His righteous disposition. God’s righteous disposition is holy; it does not tolerate being offended or questioned; it is something possessed by none among created or non-created beings. It is both unique and exclusive to God. This is to say that God’s wrath is holy and unoffendable. In the same way, the other aspect of God’s righteous disposition—God’s mercy—is holy and cannot be offended. None of the created or non-created beings can replace or represent God in His actions, nor could anyone have replaced or represented Him in the destruction of Sodom or the salvation of Nineveh. This is the true expression of God’s unique righteous disposition.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh