Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7, Hosea 6:6
The context of this Scripture is contained at a time when Jesus reminds the Pharisees it is not the letter of the law that matters so much as steadfast love and caring for those who sin. The commentary on the verse in Hosea says God wants those who sin to love Him and know Him, not simply to change their behavior.
God desires a deeper relationship than accusation or conversion will ever bring us. This is why grace and mercy are so essential to the gospel.
Too often we look outside the church, not recognizing the enemy is doing a great job in our midst because we refuse to look at ourselves. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)
Of course, as we look to our brothers and sisters, the tendency toward gossip, tongue clicking and sideways glances is almost as natural as breathing. (“Did you hear about him? Why is she wearing that? When will they stop ___________?”)
How often, when we hear a sermon, do we think of ourselves first? Come on, admit it; how many of us immediately think of someone else when our pastor speaks of sin?
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13
James refers not to Old Testament law, which Christ fulfilled, but New Covenant law, which Jesus gave us. This new law the Holy Spirit writes upon our hearts, and it resides deep within our souls. It is this law of loving God, loving our neighbor and loving our enemy upon which we must meditate, speak and act.
We are so quick to point fingers, yet we need to slow our roll long enough to take a different approach. When a brother or sister sins, the first thing we need to do is look into our own hearts. We need to first study our own behavior. We possess two eyes; we need to lift our eye from the microscope of judgment long enough to remove the log blocking our view from the other eye of grace and mercy.
This is not to say we ignore sin. But there are specific ways we are called to handle it.
Our own sin:
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ:
Matthew 18:15-17 If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church.
Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
For Those Outside the Church:
Like it or not, God is the final arbiter of judgment and mercy:
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.
Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
When Jesus said,
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”
he wasn’t speaking about following rules. He was speaking about love and mercy. It’s easy to follow a list of rules proscribing certain behavior; it’s not so easy to allow our thoughts, our attitudes and our hearts to be transformed. It’s easy to be “nice.” It’s not so easy to embrace the true message of the gospel of grace. It’s easy to stand by the sidelines. It’s not so easy to deny our own prejudices or agendas, pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36-37
Next Week: Pure Hearts = Good Fruit