Monday, January 26, 2009
Let's Work on Showing Mercy
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). The Roman world did not admire mercy. The philosophers called mercy "A disease of the soul." Something to be abhorred if you expected to be a success. Slaves were treated like pieces of used furniture. If a woman gave birth to a daughter or a sickly son, the father could reject the child and have it destroyed. A temperamental master could in a fit of anger maim or kill a slave. The best enemy was a dead enemy. Jesus Christ taught and practiced mercy. Instead of being a sickness of the soul, mercy is the health of our Christian experience. Our world today is not too far removed spiritually from the Roman world in which Jesus gave the beatitudes. People are still treated like things, power is the supreme deity and success is the most important thing in life. I trust you will benefit by this study of mercy. First, God has two kinds of attributes. Absolute and relative. Absolute describes what God is like in Himself. God is truth, meaning He cannot lie. God is Holy, meaning he cannot sin. God's relative attributes relate to man. Trust becomes faithfulness. "Great is Your faithfulness."Holiness becomes justice. Justice demands punishment for sin. Love becomes grace and mercy. Mercy is a spiritual bridge that God has built so He can relate to us and a bridge we must build if we are going to relate lovingly to others. Mercy pities and grace pardons. There are several factors involved in the experience of mercy. It begins with pain. Somebody hurts us unjustly and we must respond to this hurt. If we have the power to retaliate, then we must decide what to do. You cannot show mercy unless you have the power to hurt. Suppose the person deserves to be hurt? We feel we must teach them a lesson. At this point love enters the picture, not to conceal truth but to control it. When we show mercy, we do not give the offender what he deserves. This act demands faith. We must leave the offender and his offense in the hands of God. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves" (Romans 12:19). What is the result of this painful experience? Growth! We share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings and become more like Him. We do suffer because of an other's sin, but we choose to use our power for growth instead of retaliation. When we show mercy we are practicing one of the attributes of God. This beatitude begins with a right attitude towards myself, I am to be poor in spirit. The next step is a right attitude towards God's Word, "Blessed are the meek." This creates in me a desire for God's righteousness. When we by faith receive the righteousness of God, we then begin to be like God. "Blessed are the Merciful." Second, the best way to understand mercy is to see it in action. The first example is Abraham's courageous rescue of his nephew Lot. You probably remember Lot had no business being in Sodom. Remember he pitched his tent toward Sodom. Look at a sinful place long enough and it becomes attractive. Sodom was attacked by the enemy kings, and Lot and his family were taken captive. Have you noticed when you sin you usually take someone with you. When Abraham heard about it he went to battle in order to rescue Lot. This was an act of mercy. Abraham had given Lot first choice of the land. Lot had been the foolish one. Why rescue him? Because it was the merciful thing to do. Lot had hurt Abraham and Abraham had the power to hurt Lot, but Abraham choose mercy (Even though Lot went right back to Sodom). Many a person rescued from sin, returns to become a slave again. Another example is Joseph. In Egypt the tables were turned. Joseph could have killed his brothers. He went off and wept and then came back and showed mercy. Joseph was not a prodigal son who yielded to the sins of the flesh or an elder brother who yielded to the sins of the spirit. Joseph was like Jesus Christ who prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." The third example is David. Saul tired to kill David, David had been anointed king by Samuel. David knew that real power was in showing mercy. Don't bury the hatchet with the handle sticking out of the ground. David believed in the sovereignty of God, He knew God was in absolute control of every event in his life. Third, the greatest example is seen in our Lord Jesus Christ. The strength of Christ's mercy matched the intensity of the hate of His enemies. He did expose their sin. Mercy does not sweep sin under the rug. There is a counterfeit mercy. It goes like this "I am just as sinful as you are so I will show mercy to you because you show mercy to me." This is the equivalent of honor among thieves. False mercy has led some pastors to stop preaching against sin and compromise. God forgives us and shows us mercy on the basis of Christ's sacrifice, and we should show mercy to others on the same basis. Counterfeit mercy always inflates the ego of the believer, but true mercy humbles you and gives God the glory. Forth, you cannot extend mercy until you have received mercy. Mercy begins with salvation. Submission is required. David knew that it was not his privilege to exercise vengeance, so he left Saul in the hands of the God. Our Lord is the perfect Judge. The one who extends mercy suffers because he experiences the hurt caused by his enemy. The one receiving mercy suffers as he realizes what he has done and repents of his sin. This is seen in the woman who was taken in adultery. This shows there are several ways of dealing with sin. There is Moses way, the Law demanded death. Then there is man's way, the Pharisees exposed the sinner to accomplish their own selfish purposes. Christ said "He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her." Then there is the Masters way. Jesus did not deny the fact of sin. But mercy and truth met together and she became a forgiven sinner. Think about what that cost Jesus, His own shed blood. There can be no mercy without suffering, no pardon without pain. Fifth, what does it mean to obtain mercy? The believer is surrounded by mercy. "Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life." Jude 21 "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." God responds to us on the basis of the condition of the heart. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.