As I read through Luke 6 and 7 I knew immediately that I wanted to write about Luke 6:36. That verse jumped off the page as if it was written in neon lights. It reads: “Be merciful just as your father is merciful.” I have struggled with this verse for two days now and have not moved past it, a clear indication that mercy is something I have an issue with and just hadn’t realized it. As I’ve struggled with this here are the two things that I’ve learned: I’m not as merciful as I think I am and I not sure that I really understand the true meaning biblical mercy.
I used to go to a church that sort of referred members to service groups based on spiritual gifting. This isn’t necessarily a bad concept, people should serve where they are gifted and/or talented. Anyway, one of those groups was the Mercy committee. Any “acts of mercy” that needed to be performed fell in their laps. Loved it! After all, it was very convenient. I never had to do anything. In all my years there I never had to get my hands dirty in service. What I did develop was a very bad habit that I am just now realizing. I have equated mercy with giving money. Had you asked me 48 hours ago if I exercise the gift of mercy I would have emphatically said “yes, of course!” I sponsor a World Vision child, pack multiple Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and give to charities I love. That’s mercy, right? Hosea 6:6 has really challenged this belief, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God not burnt offerings”. I have been giving God sacrifices (money) and calling it mercy. This is certainly not being merciful as my Father is merciful. Not even close.
So what is His mercy and how do I do it? In his book ‘Relearning Jesus’, Matthew Paul Turner* has a great chapter on mercy. He says Jesus’ type of mercy, is “alarming and peculiar. It gives and gives and gives with out expecting anything from me in return. The mercy of Jesus catches me off guard at times. And I believe it’s the kind of mercy that’s most effective in this world – the kind that leaves me standing back saying what just happened.” (p.94). I love that explanation. It illustrates how amazing a merciful Jesus really is and it makes me realize how far I have to go.
I haven’t fully unpacked this topic in my head yet but in terms of application here’s one thing I can say for sure; I need to be less selective with the mercy that I give. I recently had an email conversation with Tal,** who I referenced in a previous post. He and I were discussing our frustration with people who have a manufactured point scale for sin. All sin is equal, none more or worse than the other. This has been a huge issue for me as I often complain that christians miss the mark by treating certain things as ‘big’ sins. Drives me crazy. Reflecting on Luke 6:36, I think I do the same thing with mercy. I have a tendency to give mercy and forgiveness when it is easy for me. When I don’t have to go to far out on a moral limb. And, worst of all, when I decide it’s justified. I pray that I will learn to grow in the understanding of and ability to freely show mercy, mercy like the kind the Father has shown me.
I hope you comment on mercy and what it means to you. I have a lot to learn from your thoughts.
Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 7 and 8
Here are two links for guys I’m learning to know and hope I can someday call friends:
* ‘Relearning Jesus: How Reading the Beatitudes One More Time Changed My Life” is a great book. I highly recommend it. Matthew’s currently offering this book for free, for a limited time, if you purchase his other book ‘Churched’ (hysterical!) through his site. http://jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com/
** One more shout out for Tal. He’s a cool (and merciful) guy with an inspiring story and great Sirius show that will challenge you. http://www.talprincelive.com/templates/System/default.asp?id=41919