We often so easily forget the mercy that God has shown to us in Christ. We deserve only God’s wrath and justice for our sins, but he has offered his hand of mercy to us in Christ! What have you been given by God that you truly deserve (1 Cor. 4:7)? Be honest!
How do we practice mercy with others, particularly those who treat us indifferently and cruel? Are we merciful with others who sin against us? Do we reflect our Father’s goodness and mercy when others sin against us? Not always! In fact, we many times ask for others to treat us and to pay us back in a way inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God offers to us mercy, a forgiveness that is unmerited or undeserved! We ought to offer that same unmerited and undeserved mercy back to other people who upset us– – yet it is so hard for us to do!
It is because we have not truly understood God’s mercy on us! If we did, we would have not trouble (by His grace) extending hands of mercy to others!
How can we be more merciful and forgiving as a people? By the power of Christ’s Spirit teaching us the deep and undying love and mercy of God to us! Let this sink into our unmerciful and unforgiving hearts:
“While we were yet sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for the ungodly!”(Romans 5:6-11)
That’s mercy! May we come to understand Mercy, mercy, mercy to others. As Jesus says: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”
“Mercy, mercy me! What an Unmerciful World!”
We live in an extremely unmerciful world! The most common way of expressing our evil design toward others when we are angry is summarized in the saying: “Don’t get mad, get even!” Most people in our age are looking out for themselves, “number one” and if you cross them, they will do what they will to get back at you. The way of Jesus is to offer mercy to those who oppose us and treat us cruelly. Although this is impossible without the merciful Spirit of God living within us, it is possible by His grace. The Apostle Paul sums up the Christian’s attitude in Romans 12:
Romans 12:14-21: 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
At first glance, this is seems impossible, but as we reflect on God’s mercy that has been shown toward us in Jesus, so we find the strength by His grace to demonstrate this kind of attitude toward those who are evil toward us.
Sometimes we see others, both believers and unbelievers, whose sins and mistakes have caused them pain. We glance around and see the consequences of others “reaping what they have sown”. Do you reach out to help, or do you just say: “They are getting what they deserve?” Mercy reminds us each day that none of those who know the Lord Jesus Christ are getting what they deserve! What we deserve is eternal death and God’s justice, what we get by faith in Christ is God’s abundant mercy! We should remember that the next time we so easily judge another for their sins rather than teaching them to turn from their sins to the Hope we have in Jesus Christ for life!
Forgiveness- – One More Time??
What is mercy toward other people anyway? Mercy is about forgiveness– – extending a hand of undeserved grace to another– -and not just one time- – but one more time!
Remember when Peter asked Jesus “How many times shall I forgive my brother?” He presumptuously answered his own question with what he thought was a very liberal and kind “seven times?” before Jesus answered him. However, Jesus wanted him to know that if he or anyone else understood God’s forgiveness, undeserving mercy toward us, we would all offer forgiveness and mercy as many times as it is requested.
This means in reality that anytime you have forgiven someone “one more time”, you have not forgiven them enough. There will be probably be another time, and you must be just as ready and willing to extend a hand of undeserved grace toanother all over again! This means that the next time you offer mercy to another (one to whom you perhaps have had to forgive before), you must remember that you cannot think anything like “Well, this will be the last time for them, I’ve had it with ’em!”
If you think like this, you have not understood the number of times daily, no hourly, that you must return to your God with requests of forgiveness. In other words, you constantly need forgiveness and mercy from God and others will constantly need forgiveness and mercy from you! Read carefully Jesus’ story in Matthew 18:
A Story of Debt Owed and Forgiven
Matthew 18:21-35: Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (about 15 years’ wages). 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (a days’ wages), and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Notice in this story the following important points concerning mercy: 1) The amount of debt is great- -it is not merely overlooked! It costs the king a lot, yet he forgives the debt! 2) The servant could never repay his master! 3) The King was merciful and forgave him his debt!
We could never repay God for our sins! None of us! We all owe God eternal death, for Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. Yet God, who is rich in mercy, extends a hand of forgiveness to us in Christ.
“We owed a debt we could not pay; Christ paid a debt He did not owe!”
Remember: Believing and actually doing are two different things! You may believe this about mercy. You may even believe that this is Biblical, but do you practice mercy? Are you an initiator of mercy? How many “owe” you a debt today that is eating you up inside? How many are you unwilling to forgive, to even call or write and extend mercy toward them? Are you greater than God? We must come to terms with our sins and face them, so that we can turn once again to the mercy of God found in the face of Christ! We must seek out, be initiators of mercy!
Mercy is a “Weighty Matter” of the Law of God
We often forget that the Pharisees were very good at achieving merely external righteousness. They “did the right thing” outwardly even if it didn’t come from a pure heart (Matt. 15:7ff; 23:23ff). Remember that Jesus reminded the Pharisees and his disciples of the “weightier” or more important matters of the Law from the Prophet Micah:
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (mercy: hesed, translated “lovingkindness of God), and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
“Mercy” or offering an undeserved hand of grace and forgiveness to others who sin against us is a very important and “weighty” matter of the Law! Why? The Law condemns us all! If God has shown us mercy and not just wrath and punishment, shouldn’t we show the same to others who may have broken our own personal and social laws against us?
Receivers of Mercy
We have earned God’s just wrath and punishment. The only thing we have done to merit anything before a Holy God is to earn death and wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy has offered us grace in Jesus Christ. Some of the greatest two words ever written are “but God” from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:1-8: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
The very good news of the gospel is that we are not getting what we deserve because of what Christ did mercifully for us! We have been shown mercy by the Living God.
God shows us mercy and grace so that we might be saved. The Mercy Seat in the Old Covenant is where justice and mercy meet because of God’s love and mercy to sinners! In the Old Covenant blood is shed on the mercy seat as a substitution for sinners. In the fullness of time in the New Covenant, Christ himself sheds his own precious blood, not merely on the Mercy Seat, a representation of God’s throne, but lays down his life before the very throne of God itself!
Do you show mercy to others? Do you say things like: “Well, they deserved it!”? Or, do you say unmerciful harsh things in more of a subtle manner, such as: “I would forgive them, but I’m not going to forget it!” Or, “I warned them so many times, and now they are getting what they deserve?
The next time you are thinking thoughts such as these, ask yourself:
What about what I deserve before a Holy God?
This reality should seep deep down into our heart and cause us to overflow with mercy and grace to others. You truly owed a debt that you could never in a million years repay, yet Christ in His mercy to you, paid a debt he never in a million years would have owed to God. Now, go and offer the same sacrificial mercy to others!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Love in Christ,
Next Study: “Blessed are the Pure in Heart”