Mercy Me!?

Mercy, Me!?

Last week we looked at the Word and saw the justice and the mercy of God. Since we are all guilty of breaking God’s Law, all of us have a death sentence in Hell. Fortunately, God loves us so much that He has offered mercy to us instead of justice, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, who satisfied God’s justice by taking our punishment on the cross.

To receive mercy from God, we must humble ourselves and admit we are guilty, repent, and ask God’s forgiveness through baptism. God will show mercy and forgive our sin on the grounds of the shed blood of the Son, Jesus Christ. It is that blood which brings justice to God for our sin, and the mercy of God to us. Then we are blessed with His abundant grace in many ways: salvation, a new birth of the Holy Spirit, Heaven, protection, deliverance, provision, power, and an inheritance.

All that is good news! After receiving God’s mercy, guess what we are supposed to do to continue receiving God’s mercy. We are to show mercy to others.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

First, let’s look at what MERCY is not. MERCY is NOT: 1. pretending to have a heart
of care and compassion. 2. It is not trying to act nice so that others are nice to you. 3. It is not
getting favor from God by giving to the poor. 4. It is not showing kindness only when you think something’s in it for you. 5. Mercy isn’t merely a feeling of pity or sorrow for others.

True mercy is compassion that goes into action. It is doing something with the feelings we have for someone. Those feelings could be sympathy or antipathy. Mercy goes beyond our feelings to empathy. In other words, mercy is "love in action."

For example, James 2:15-16 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Since mercy is love in action, the merciful are forgiving. But even forgiveness can be too weak a description, unless we understand that we are not only to forgive the injury done to us by another, but we are also to help the one who hurt us to recovery. That’s the hard part isn’t it? It’s one thing to say we forgive, it’s another to become actively involved in mercy.

However, that is the mercy Jesus demonstrated toward us. While we were sinning against Him, He died for us, atoning for our sins with His blood so we might receive forgiveness. Then He sent His Spirit to be in us and lead us into full recovery to become the person we were created to be. That is more than forgiveness; that is love in action; that is mercy!

How do we practically demonstrate mercy? There are many ways, but here are four to consider:

(1) Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 

Merciful people are accepting people. They see everyone as an equal, a person whom God loves and Jesus died for. Merciful people realize God’s goal is to take all the different people He created and make them like-minded in Jesus Christ to glorify Himself. As a result, we become God’s bouquet (so to speak), the Bride of Christ, the Church.

How do you treat those who are different; those who seem a little odd to you; those who come from a different culture or upbringing?

(2) Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

It’s an interesting thing about forgiveness: when we ask to receive it, it seems simple and feels so right, but when we are called to give it, it is so hard and feels so wrong. When we are sinned against, it’s not natural for us to show mercy. We want justice.

However, a merciful person is one who can forgive the sinner. And that doesn’t just apply to those who have sinned against you, but also to those who have sinned in ways that you just cannot understand. All of us have vulnerable areas to temptation. Maybe you can’t understand how someone can have a lust problem, but they don’t understand why you continue to gossip. Maybe you cannot conceive why anyone would become addicted to drugs, but they can’t fathom your inability to deal with gluttony.

How do you treat those who have sinned? Merciful people don’t point a finger, they lend a helping hand to deliver those in bondage to sin.

(3) Prov. 3:27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.

Remember, mercy is practical assistance. It’s love in action.

1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 

When someone is suffering, a merciful person will get involved! The Samaritan, in Jesus’ parable, is a good example. While the religious people avoided the injured man, the Samaritan got involved, dressed his wounds, took him to an inn, and paid all the expenses. Do you help those who are suffering by giving what they need to recover? It doesn’t help to give money to enable them to buy drugs. That is not what they need! Whatever else you do, what they need is Jesus.

(4) As we have seen, the Word commands us to show mercy to a brother or sister. However, there is another group of people we are to show mercy, and this is the hardest of all.

Luke 6:32-36 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Now, that is exactly the opposite of what the world says. The world says, "When people hurt you, hurt them back." God says, not only are we to forgive our enemies, we are to do good to them. After all, we have been God’s enemy and He is merciful to us. He does good to us even while we rebel against Him. “Be like Me,” God says, “and treat others as I have treated you.”

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Do you know the best way to defeat an enemy? Make him your friend. We can do that by doing good to them, in spite of what they do to us. That is mercy. But how can we do this hard, unnatural thing? We can’t in our own strength. But the Holy Spirit in us gives us the grace and power to show mercy, if we will yield our feelings to Him and follow His guidance.

The Holy Spirit also reminds us that God is much more merciful to us, and therefore, it is right for us to show mercy to others. That’s the whole point of the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Matthew 18:23-35 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'  "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

When I think of all the forgiveness that God has given me; of all the times I’ve done things my own way; of all the ways I’ve sinned; I am amazed that God loves me. If He can be merciful to me, after all I’ve done, shouldn’t I be merciful to others?

We should remember what Jesus has done for us, thank God for His mercy, and pray “Father, make me merciful like you!” After all, we are going to need more of His mercy in the future.

James 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

In other words, "you get what you give" or “you reap what you sow”. Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and we ought to be motivated to give mercy because we will need it many times.

And that, says Jesus, is the blessing of the beatitude. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Jesus also said it works the other way too. If you’re not merciful, you won’t receive mercy.

Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I don’t know about you, but that, to me, is a sobering thought. Jesus has stated it very simply so we can understand the truth: when we’re merciful, we enjoy God’s mercy. When we are not merciful, we are inviting God’s justice upon ourselves.

So when we get hurt, we have a choice. Will we show mercy or show justice? Will we let our hurts heal and make us better, or will we let our hurts fester and make us bitter?

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God, and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  

Bitterness grows when you allow what is eating you to eat you up. Bitterness is the deliberate decision to nurse the offense until it becomes a grudge. That bitterness will defile every relationship you have, destroy your marriage, ruin your career, split your church, and send you to Hell. Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment will be all you have left. But mercy can set you free.

If you are resentful today, I beg you to allow Jesus to heal the hurt in your heart through forgiveness. Remember how much mercy God has shown you. Forgiving others brings healing to your soul. Lewis Smedes said, “When I genuinely forgive, I set a prisoner free, and then discover that the prisoner I set free was me.”

Jesus declares that those who are merciful “will be shown mercy.” The more we understand how much mercy we’ve received, the more mercy we’ll give to others. And the more mercy we show, the more mercy we get. Instead of giving others justice, we can offer people something they don’t deserve: unqualified mercy. We give them what we have been given, and in so doing, we receive more mercy.

Please understand, I am not saying mercy can be earned. Mercy is God’s gift through faith in Jesus Christ before we show any mercy towards anyone else. How thrilling it is to go through life sharing Jesus, God’s mercy, and begin to see people through the merciful eyes of Christ. We have been given mercy; therefore, we can extend mercy to others.

Mercy and forgiveness go hand in hand. Mercy and forgiveness is what God demonstrates to the undeserving sinner. That undeserving sinner is us.

If you want to be like God – show mercy – even to those you don’t like. Do good to those who do evil to you.

Society says – when people hurt you – hurt them back. Get even! Gossip about them, talk behind their back about them, destroy them, do anything you can to get even. But God says, “No! Be merciful, just as I am merciful to you. Forgive, just as I forgive you.”

When we leave this building, sooner or later we will face “that person” again. You know, “that person” who is constantly criticizing us. “That person” who acts like a jerk. Jesus says we are to show “that person” mercy.

How would it be that if each time “that person” criticized you, you complimented him or her? They won’t know how to respond to it, because they don’t expect it. They may reject your kindness because they have a wall built up to protect themselves. However, now you’re in control of the situation. You’re on the offensive not the defensive. There is a hurting person behind that wall that needs the love of God. Remember mercy is love in action.

God wants us to be like Him. God has given us so much, and we are to give out what we have received from God. God has given us love. We should love others. God has given us kindness. We should be kind to others. God has given us forgiveness. We should forgive others. God has given us mercy. We should show mercy to others. That way others can see God in us and be drawn to Jesus Christ to receive mercy instead of justice.

So, how can you begin acting like God? The starting point is that you must first experience the mercy and forgiveness of God. You cannot offer unconditional mercy to anyone until you have first received unconditional mercy. You can’t be a forgiving person unless you have been forgiven. The starting point is receiving the mercy of God, which is the atoning sacrifice for your sins—Jesus Christ crucified on the cross.

By His shed blood, Jesus offers us mercy. Jesus offers us forgiveness. Jesus offers us peace. To receive His offers, come to Jesus and give Him your life. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins; ask Him to be your Lord and Master. Ask Him to give you a new life by dying to your old life in baptism. Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit so you have power and grace to love and obey Him.  If you do those things, He will give you forgiveness and He will give you mercy. Then you will have grace and power to show forgiveness and mercy to others. You will become a witness of Jesus Christ, who will abide in you through the Holy Spirit, giving you all He is and possesses.