Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2 August 2016
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7, NRSV)
“…because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.           Mercy triumphs over judgement" (James 2:13, NIV)
            Good morning. Today brings us to one of my very favorite subjects-God’s mercy. God’s
Mercy is without doubt the only reason I am still alive today, not to mention sitting here writing this post. Not to go too deep theologically here, but the fact is God’s mercy is the only reason any of us are here, believers and unbelievers alike. Perhaps our first practical step in showing mercy is simply spending some time alone with God learning how to receive mercy. As we consider this, we see the reason this beatitude is located here, after poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. If any of you have any doubt as to our need for mercy, take a few minutes to review the Ten Commandments with an honest open heart and see how you stack up. Ask God for help here, perhaps using the words of Psalm 139: “search me. O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the ancient way.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NRSV). Remember, we are not seeking judgement or condemnation here, but a fuller appreciation of the mercy of God.
            As we learn to become comfortable with the mercy shown us, showing mercy to others becomes more and more natural. Not quite second nature, but at the very least something we are aware of. Gradually our tendency towards mercy overcomes our rush to judgement. Now, I realize there are many out there who will take exception to this. That’s ok. We are not concerned here with what others are up to or think about us or even with defending our position. Jesus Himself has a lot to say about the proper relationship between mercy and judgement and I will leave it to you to research this. I will say the distinction between showing mercy and tolerating sinful behavior is an important one and not to be taken lightly.
            Now, back to the practice of actually showing mercy. One way we can show mercy is simply to pray for our enemies. I try to keep a pretty low profile and aside from a few Facebook friends on the other end of the political spectrum, I’m pretty sure I don’t have many enemies. At least, not that I’m aware of. However, there are people with whom I strongly disagree, on a variety of topics for a variety of reasons. These people do not provoke me to charity or lovingkindness or any of those godly things. Praying for God to bless them and prosper them is not my first inclination. However, I’m here to tell you I have tried it and the results are amazing. I began by confessing I was praying for them strictly because God commands it, not because I wanted to. I don’t know how much of a difference it made in their lives but it certainly made a difference in mine.  
            Another way to show mercy on a more personal, one-on-one level is simply not to judge others. As I mentioned above, this can get a little sticky. Remember, we are dealing with the individual person here, not individual acts. We are opening our hearts to others-our fellow travelers, as it were-learning to see them as God would like us to see them. Note-we are not so much trying to see as God sees-this is not possible without massive infusions of divine grace. We are trying to see as God would have us see-looking for the divine image, however tarnished it may be. And, as always, we recognize judgement, redemption and restoration are God’s alone to give, to whomever He wills.
            Perhaps we have a friend caught in some particularly bad habitual behavior, from which escape is difficult. Perhaps someone offended us in the past or did something really stupid they never quite got over. We may know someone struggling with guilt over some past thing that continues to haunt and condemn. And here is the key. We do not condemn. We forget their offenses as God forgets ours-as far as the east is from the west, as the Psalmist says. Do you see now the importance of understanding God’s mercy towards us? In a sense we are talking about forgiveness here. We will be coming upon forgiveness later on, but I think it can be difficult at times separating one from the other.
            One more thing about mercy. God Himself is, as Jesus says, kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (Luke 6:35). This verse and its context, 32-36 (and Lamentations 3:23-23, since we’re on the topic), have become a sort of polestar for me, helping me understand (as much as is humanly possible, anyway) God and how He expects us to live. I highly recommend them as a sort of supplemental to this discussion. I could write about mercy for days. My hope is that the Lord will bless this little piece and use it to get you started.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG


No comments:

Post a Comment