Unmerited Favor

In Volume 16 of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, we see Doctor Knox again helping out our injured heroes. After they leave, his estranged son approaches him. He tells him he wants to be a Doctor and truly help people, wishing he would too. Knox invites in his son and, in a silent moment alone cries out to the Lord saying, “God, if you do exist, cut me some slack. Even a guy like me deserves enough happiness to drink coffee with his family, right?”

Knox was a military surgeon who focused on autopsies in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. During the War in Ishvala, he committed war atrocities. They studied the effects of burns on the human body, performing varying degrees of burning to people to watch them die or see if they would survive. It was horrific and committed on the ethnically Ishvalan people only. This genocide lead by their own country was something Knox actively was involved in doing. It ate at him, and still did by the time this part of the story came to pass. This man, at this moment, cries out to the Lord as I noted above. He’s asking the Lord to cut him some slack, you know – if the Lord even exists. He claims he deserves a little happiness in his life. But, does he? The short answer is no. The long answer is this article.

What we actually deserve is God’s wrath. All of it. Committing one sin, is the guilt equivalent of committing all the sins (James 2:10). Knox’s sins include many counts of murder or assistance in murder. He chose to kill on account of race. He showed preference to others because of their race. Each of those sins are a complete rebuke of God, a rejection of God, and rebellion against our Creator. Any sin is punishable by death (Proverbs 11:19Romans 6:23) and frankly, we deserve it. He doesn’t deserve a nice dinner with his family. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Neither do I. Neither do you.

In the grand narrative of the Bible we see a God who forgives us – even though we don’t deserve it. This is grace – an unmerited favor received by the Lord. While we were still living in sin, rebelling against our Creator – He willingly became a man and died in our place (John 3:16Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18). It’s a love which we don’t deserve, a love which seems ridiculous and over the top at times at face value. In my piece on comparing Ben’s love and Christ’s love from Descendants, I wrote:

We are fallen sinners (Romans 3:23). We are selfish (Isaiah 64:6). We try to quench the Spirit of the Lord within us (Ephesians 4:30). In short, we are waging a war against our Lord. In many ways, Mal is doing the same thing to Ben. She is secretly helping her evil mother to take over and destroy the kingdom. She used a magic spell to force Ben to love her before he really did. But, like the Lord – he loves her anyway.

It, like Ben, seems ridiculous to us that a lawbreaker like us should be given God’s love. And, frankly, it is. We don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it and can do nothing to earn it. We are fallen creatures easily distracted by the shiny objects of the world. He loves us anyway. He gave His only begotten Son to reconcile us to Him. He chose to live depowered as a man, dwelling among us, and dying by our hands – to save us from our sins. He loved us through our evil – Ben is loving Mal through this personal nature as well…To us from a human perspective, this may seem ridiculous. We don’t know how to love like that. We don’t sacrificially give that much of ourselves. We’re not willing to suffer incredible pain and the full wrath of the Lord for the betterment of our friends, let alone our enemies as Christ has done. As Andy Mineo says in the song One Sixteen, “When you hear the story about the hero dying for the villain?” This is that story. It’s the Lord’s story and when we see that kind of love presented in media, we need to acknowledge it.

In Fullmetal Alchemist, we see a man who knows he’s done wrong. Who is crying out in the only way he knows how to a God he does not understand. There are so many broken people in this world in similar situations to Doctor Knox. They know they have failed. They know they are fallen. They know they are broken. They know they need help, but they do not know where that help can come from. There is something missing in each of them and that missing piece is Christ. While they may claw after the things of this world, these things will never fill that void. A cup of coffee with his son may give him comfort in the moment, but in the end Knox still must live with the evil he has committed. Only Christ can offer the full cleansing Knox and all of us need. Seek Him first because even though we don’t deserve it, He loves us anyway.

About the Author

Matthew Newman
Matthew Newman is a Christian environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He’s also a husband, beard aficionado, Dad of four beautiful children, blogger, and all around geeky guy from Baltimore County. When he’s not chasing his kids or working, he’s probably asleep.

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