Children

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48


Children of the Father in heaven live by a radically new ethic when it comes to matters of justice and mercy.  Like their Father, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give beyond what is required.

This contrast with human nature is most stark when considering those who seriously injure us by their words or actions.

Jesus’ command?

Love them.

Why?

LOVING CHILDREN OF THEIR FATHER

Because when we love our enemies we begin to understand the love God has for us. As a result, we begin to become more like Him.  Love that is indiscriminate, unconditional and sacrificial.  A love that goes against every natural inclination of ours to seek revenge, to hate and to become embittered.

Children of the King and His kingdom do not seek out loopholes or technicalities to get around loving others like their Father loves them.  Rather, they choose to wrestle with their natural inclinations to bring them under His control, often acting mercifully when feeling resentful in hopes that one day the two will be in sync.

After all, learning to be perfect as our Father is Perfect is a daunting assignment that can only be accomplished by His grace!

Forgiveness

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

-Matthew 18:21-22


So Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness.  Jesus answers him with an outlandish answer that harkens back to the braggadocio of Lamech (see previous article) and takes a u-turn, heading in the opposite direction.  Jesus tells Peter that forgiveness must be done with the same passion as Lamech had for revenge.

What?

A PASSION FOR COMPASSION

To illustrate, Jesus’ parable begins with a king who has a passion for compassion (vss. 26-27). Confronted by a servant debtor who owes him a ridiculous amount the king is ready to cut his losses, write off the debt and sell the debtor and his family off as slaves.

Being sold into slavery was not a sentence without hope.  Some day, a kind master may offer an opportunity for the servant to purchase his freedom or he may even set him and his family free once he no longer needed their services.  Or, in the case of a Jewish setting, the servant would have served, at most, 49 years or until the next celebration of Jubilee (cf., Leviticus 25).

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

Matthew 18:26-27

Ridiculous debt, total devastation, over-the-top mercy and grace beyond anyone’s expectations.  Jesus harkens to what will soon become a cosmically defining moment for all time with a cross on a hill and His own suffering and death for the sake of the lost…and a God who is passionate about forgiving those whose incalculable debt of sin most certainly would otherwise ban them from His presence forever.

AN ABSENCE OF COMPASSION

For the forgiven servant this is his year of Jubilee!  There can be little doubt about his exuberance as the servant rejoices over being forgiven such a huge debt.  Not only that, he has also been released from his sentence for him and his family to be sold into slavery.  What an outlandish gift from the compassionate king!

Jesus’ parable follows the forgiven servant out of the king’s throne room and back into the marketplace.  Suddenly, his smiles and rejoicing turn to scowls and murderous rage as he encounters a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller amount, minuscule in comparison to the debt that has just been forgiven.   Enraged, the forgiven servant grabs his fellow servant around the neck and starts choking him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.

Echoing the forgiven servant’s very words before the king, the debtor servant falls to his knees and begins to beg him:  ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’  (vs. 29).

Jesus continues:  “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt”  (vs. 30).  The contrast between the king and the forgiven servant could hardly be more stark.  Having the man thrown into prison, where he could no longer work to repay his debt, the forgiven servant condemns his fellow servant to prison for the remainder of his life; a hopeless vengeance with no hope of repayment.  Lamech’s boasting suddenly finds resonance in a man who wants more than simple revenge; he wants his fellow servant to suffer beyond repayment to utter devastation and ruin.

THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE KING’S COMPASSION

Jesus concludes the parable with the king’s servants observing the forgiven servant’s actions with the one who owed the lesser debt.  Outraged themselves they report it to the king who immediately calls in the forgiven servant.  The king says to him:

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

The king’s sentence matches the one the formerly forgiven servant had meted out to his fellow servant who owed the lesser debt.  Only this time the king adds the prospect of torture until his debt was paid in full (vs. 34)…a day which would never, ever come.

FORGIVENESS CONCLUSION

Jesus then concludes the parable with a defining statement:

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (vs. 35)

This conclusion ties the entire discussion together.  Beginning with  the disciples asking whom among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus hammers home that kingdom citizenship stands or falls based upon one’s passion to forgive as they have been forgiven.

FORGIVENESS: PASS IT ON!

Forgiveness

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22


In this article on Matthew 18, Peter’s question about forgiveness was extremely generous.  Imagine his shock when Jesus replies with such an outlandish response.  This kind of forgiveness is not a normal human response to the offending words or behavior of another person.

Normal human behavior is detailed for us in Genesis 4 at the beginning.  The familiar story of Cain and Abel demonstrates the powerful emotion of anger and resentment.

FAULTY THINKING

Here, in Genesis 4:1-16 Cain’s sacrifices to God were not acceptable while Abel’s were welcomed by God.   Abel had sacrificed from his “firstborn” of his flock of sheep in faith that God would provide for the future.  Conversely,  Cain sacrificed “some of the fruits of the soil” rather than from the firstfruits (vss. 3-5).

A logical response would be for Cain to do what was required to make his sacrifices acceptable to God. Rather than correcting his behavior Cain chose to become angry with his brother (vs. 5) to the point that he attracted God’s attention.  God counseled to Cain:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (vss. 6-7).

MURDEROUS INTENT

Cain’s response was to lure his trusting brother into a field.  There, Cain’s anger had consumed him to the point that the only solution he could see for his failure was to murder Abel.  God’s conversation with Cain is enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone whose sin has been revealed:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done?” (vss. 9-10)

Continuing, God judges, convicts and sentences Cain:

Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (vss. 10-12).

CONSEQUENCES WITH A PROMISE

When Cain complains in fear of the consequences of his sentence–which would be that he suffer the same fate of his brother–God responds with a promise: “…anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over” (vs. 15).

GENERATIONAL CURSE

In Genesis 4:17-24, seven generations after Adam and Eve through Cain’s descendants, we are briefly introduced to Lamech who brags to his two wives:

“I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times” (vss. 23-24).

Cain’s murderous rage at his brother began with a perceived injustice that festered from one generation to the next.  Lemech represents the darker side of the family trait of rage as it blows past simple revenge and an “eye for an eye” sort-of justice to an extreme  that knows no limits.  Crushing vengeance that destroys others over the slightest offense to make sure they suffer beyond measure.

The trend in Cain’s death spiral genealogy would finally meet its termination in Lamech’s son of whom he would predict:  “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed” *Genesis 5:29).  Lemech named his son, Noah.

LAMECH’S SON: THE END OF JUSTICE BEYOND MEASURE

One reference to those perilous times by Peter’s question would elicit a 3-dimentional response from Jesus that would be driven home by The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

This powerful ending to Matthew 18, a significant chapter on conflict resolution and forgiveness, would conclude with Jesus’ assertion that citizens of the kingdom of heaven must “forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (vs. 35).  We will address this parable and Jesus’ conclusion in the final article of this series on Forgiveness and Matthew 18.

Forgiveness

Matthew 18 is an incredible chapter on conflict resolution and forgiveness.  It begins with the disciples asking Jesus who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom (vs. 1).  The chapter concludes with Jesus telling them that God’s harshest judgement awaits those who do not practice forgiveness “from your heart” (vs. 35).  The following is an overview of this chapter.

THE FATHER LOVES HIS CHILDREN – Matthew 18:1-6

Jesus answers the disciples’ question “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” by calling a little child to Himself.  Placing the child in front of them, Jesus says:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Ideally, we think of little children as innocent, trusting, vulnerable, obedient, loving and so much more.  Obviously Jesus is not just speaking of the chronological age of a person because because He instructs the adults around Him that they must change and become like them.  For these little ones, Jesus will say later, in verse 10: “For I tell you that their [God’s children’s] angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

THE FATHER’S JUDGEMENT  – Matthew 18:7-10*

Anyone who causes one of these children of the Father to stumble will meet their doom by the wrath of God.  The options that Jesus gives them are so  severe that they would be better off dead, sent to the bottom of the sea.  Their change must be as radical as cutting off a limb or plucking out an eye.  These options would be so much better alternatives for them than being sentenced to hell.  God’s angelic emissaries are watching!

THE FATHER SEEKS THE LOST – Matthew 18:12-14

Just like the man who leaves the 99 sheep safely in the fold in order to seek out the one lost sheep, so Jesus’ Father searches high and low for those who have been hurt and are wandering alone.  When He finds the lost sheep their Father, by Name, rejoices over them because He does not want to lose a single one.

THE FATHER’S PATH TO FORGIVENESS – Matthew 18:15-20

The process is simple, yet profound.  So much so that whatever is agreed to on earth comes full circle and is validated in heaven as well (verses 18-19).   Jesus concludes this section stating plainly: “For where two or three have gathered in My name, there I am in their
midst” (vs. 20).  So, how does the offended person go about seeking resolution to the conflict and forgiveness?

STEP 1

The person who has been hurt acknowledges the injury and damage and clarifies his or her thoughts enough to approach the one who has caused them to stumble.  The challenge is to privately confront the one who has hurt them in hope that they will listen and do whatever it takes to set things right (cf., verses 7-10).  When this happens, Jesus says, “you have won your brother”(vs. 15).  However, when the other person does not listen and is not interested in reconciliation, the process advances to the next step.

STEP 2

f the other person is not receptive to resolving the conflict Jesus encourages the one offended to bring along one or two more witnesses in hopes of resolving the issue.  Perhaps they will be able to moderate and offer advice with the goal of achieving an outcome with which all agree.  If this is not successful, Jesus offers a third step.

STEP 3

Jesus instructs that the offended person and the witnesses  “tell it to the church.”  If even this is unsuccessful, then Jesus gives the final, fourth step upon which to follow through.

STEP 4

Jesus says that if the person will not even listen to the church, “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (vs. 17).

All along, the ultimate hope of the Father is that the matter being addressed will lead to repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, even through the final step 4. Perhaps that is the reason for the later scribe’s addition of verse 11, based upon Luke 19:10: “ For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

More will be written about this and the next passages in a later blog.

THE FATHER DEMANDS THAT HIS CHILDREN  EXTEND FORGIVENESS TO OTHERS – Matthew 18:21-34

The chapter closes with Jesus’ poignant parable about a king who forgives a huge debt of one of his subjects.  The point of the parable is in the king’s unspoken expectation that the forgiven subject will extend a similar mercy to those indebted to him.  When he blatantly disregards this principle, strangling and imprisoning a man who owes him a comparatively insignificant amount, the king is livid.  The story ends with the king revoking his mercy, imprisoning the original subject and permitting the jailers to torture him until the debt is paid in full.

This story was Jesus’  answer to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  The moral of the story about mercy and forgiveness comes in the final verse: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The following two posts will be focused upon both Matthew 18:15-20 and verses 21-34.

Forgiveness, Part 2

Forgiveness, Part 3

 


*Verse 11 is not included among the most reliable manuscripts.

Salt, Light & Law

Salt, Light & Law

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:13-20


Jesus’ discussion of persecution for righteousness and His name (Matthew 5:10-12) leads directly to further teachings about salt, light and law.  The section transitions with Jesus’ pronouncement in verse 20: “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  

Salt and light influence their surroundings by enhancing and illuminating respectively.  The question is, what do they enhance and illuminate?  My theory is that Jesus’ followers enhance the image of God that is stamped upon each and every human being.

BEATITUDE PEOPLE

By their very lives, God’s presence within those who exhibit the characteristics of the beatitudes calls forth the best in others, urging  the world to a higher standard and a deeper resonance with the will of God.  How do we know?  Because immediately afterwards, Jesus launches into an analysis of the importance of the Law and its application.

When confronted by the demands of the Law each person has at least two choices.  First, they can work to minimize it’s reach into their hearts and make it superficial and, consequently, easy to obey.  The other choice is to contemplate the deeper application of the law to the point that it becomes impossible to keep perfectly.  Jesus did not only fulfill the Law superficially but He also met its demands that reach to the very core of one’s heart.  It is this penetrating level to which He calls His followers in contrast to those whose so-called ‘righteousness’ is superficial, judgmental and self-seeking.

RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT PIERCES HEARTS

To illustrate, Jesus immediately launches into the true meaning of the sixth command to ‘not murder’ (Exodus 20:13).  God was not just legislating about the taking the physical life of another bearer of God’s image; although,  legal consideration was part of its purpose (cf., Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:6-34).

There are other ways in which we murder the image of God in other people.  With the three examples cited by Jesus it is obvious that when we discount the value of another person by harboring anger against them, devaluing their worth or writing them off we have violated the spirit and intent of the command, “You shall not murder.”

These reactions to personal offenses are not the ways of those who are broken, who mourn over their sin, who meekly submit to God’s will, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who extend mercy to others, who are pure in heart and wo are devoted to making peace.  What naturally arises from this stark contrast is  the principle to which Christ is calling His followers: forgive from your heart as Jesus also commands (Matthew 18:35).

FORGIVENESS

For further discussion about how to forgive others CLICK HERE where we turn to the disciples’ question to Jesus about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 18. This entire chapter gives specific instruction about how Christ’s followers deal with conflict: forgiveness.

 

 

Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

-Matthew 5:9


Peacemakers who long to be like God have surrendered themselves to God’s will to pursue His righteousness and mercy with purity of heart.  How else could they be trusted to step into the midst of conflicted people?

Of course, when we talk about things like being children of God who want to be like their Father we must acknowledge that He is the ultimate, perfect peacemaker.  For, from the beginning of creation, knowing that man’s free will would lead him to rebellion and death, God took the initiative to reconcile this chasm between His holiness and our sin.  And so, Jesus Himself, in obedience to His Father’s will, chooses to make peace between God and man by giving Himself to suffer the penalty of man’s sin.  In essence, God demonstrates in the cross both the heinous nature of our sin and the depths of His love for us.  This is the action of the ultimate, perfect, complete, proactive, loving Father; our peacemaker.

GOOD FRIDAY & EASTER

And so, the one event in Jesus’ life that is inextricably linked to the ancient Jewish celebration of the Passover can be accurately calendared each year is Jesus’ crucifixion.  With that anchor point, then, we date His resurrection which we celebrate three days later, on the first day of the week: Easter.  This is not new information.  In fact, the whole world knows this and must acknowledge the date whether believer or non-believer.

The ultimate expression of God’s love for mankind is found in an ancient feared instrument of torture and death for criminals. “For God so loved the world,” the apostle John says, “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Laying His live down for us, bearing the weight of our sin, God takes man’s place in order to bring peace between Himself and our brokenness.

A PROACTIVE GOD AS PEACEMAKER

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth…12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace….”

 – Paul – Ephesians 2:11-14a

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

-Paul – Romans 5:7-9

CONCLUSION

Peacemaking is not to be taken lightly.  For the two opposing parties a peacemaker may be able to negotiate agreements and wrestle with compromises that each side may choose to accept.  But it is important to bear in mind that peacemakers may also be called to give of themselves completely, without reservation, in order to bring two opposing parties together.  We know this because this is what God Himself did so we could have peace with Him.  Peacemakers who understand this are closer to grasping God’s initiative in hopes of becoming more like Him; like a child imitates his or her Father.

Persecuted

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:6, 10=20


The persecuted both connect with God’s righteousness (Mt. 5;6) and it’s practice (Mt. 5:10) which is the equivalent of salt, which makes the food it touches more flavorful, and light, which illuminates even total darkness.  Here, righteousness is equated with the person, the work and the name of Jesus.  Hence, Jesus/righteousness are one and the same.

The logical conclusion is to acknowledge that those who speak and live the life of Jesus can expect persecution.  This is verified in Paul’s writings to Timothy:

10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

-Paul-2 Timothy 3:10-13

Note verse 12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, ”  Added to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, at this specific place where God’s righteousness is equated with Jesus, this makes it clear:  those who serve as salt and light to their communities in the name of Christ and influencing others for righteousness, can expect to be persecuted for the sake of Christ or God’s righteousness.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, those who are poor in spirit, who mourn over their sins, who submit to God’s will, who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, and who are merciful and pure in heart in their endeavor will be persecuted.

Persecuted.

Those who are followers of Christ, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who practice mercy to others and who are pure in heart can expect to be persecuted.  Persecution comes in many forms; but, it is directly connected to our pursuit in righteousness and our love for Jesus Christ.

 

Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

-Matthew 5:8


King David asks: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord Who may stand in his holy place?”  His answer is simple: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalms 24:3-4).  Building upon this a thousand years later, James clarifies David’s proclamation: “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8) to emphasize a single-minded focus.

PURITY

Purity is a familiar word indicating a product to be unadulterated by other contaminants or anything other than what the product claims to be.  Examples would include pure honey or pure water or pure emotion such as the joy of our daughter after bungie jumping on the Corinth Canal in Greece.

Pure Joy

More to the point, purity of heart is a state of being transparent with no hidden agenda or deceit.  Clarity of purpose and meaning would be another aspect.  James tells us that pure religion that is acceptable to God is to care for those who cannot reciprocate and to disengage from any worldly activity that would distract us from our devotion to God (James 1:27).

CALL TO PURITY

Indeed, God calls us to be pure as He is pure.  The apostle John tells us that “when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).  Hence, the pure in heart, Jesus says, “they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

 

Mercy

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

-Matthew 5:7


Mercy is a natural step in the Beatitudes of Jesus as we turn from the citizenry requirements of the kingdom of heaven as people who love God with all of their heart, soul and strength.  Through poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, choosing to submit to the will of God and seeking His righteousness we now are ready to turn to the second part of the Great Command, loving our neighbors.   Like God, we love by extending mercy to all with a purity of heart that allows us to become peacemakers who accept persecution for the sake of righteousness and because of Christ.

To illustrate the power of God’s mercy moving through us to others Jesus told a parable about a man who owed a great debt to his king but could not repay (Matthew 18:21-35).  As the king was sentencing the debtor to prison the man pleaded for mercy.  Being merciful, the king forgave the debt and let the man go free.

However, no sooner had the one who received mercy from the king left he soon found a fellow citizen who owed him a comparatively insignificant amount.  However, rather than extending the mercy he had received to the one who owed him money he chose rather to choke him and have him thrown into prison because he could not repay the debt immediately.

Seeing the actions of the unmerciful man, the king’s servants reported what they had observed and they brought him back to the king.  “‘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?’” was the king’s question to the man (vss. 32-33) whereupon the king rescinded his mercy and cast the debtor into prison.  At the conclusion of the parable Jesus makes the point crystal clear:

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (vs. 35).  God’s mercy is never to be hoarded but distributed freely as He distributes sunshine and rain on the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:44-45).

MERCY AND GRACE

John Stott makes a distinction between Grace and Mercy that is helpful.  Grace is pardon for sin and its condemnation while Mercy is compassion for sin’s consequences and its victims that leads to cure, healing and help (Christian Counterculture).

Grateful for mercy kingdom people are merciful not out of fear of losing the gracious gifts of their Father.  The motivation is the bottomless well or mercy that has been extended to them.  It compels them to pass along the blessing.  Why?  Because, having meekly submitted their will to their Father and because of their craving His righteousness they strive to be like Him, imitating Him (Luke 6:36).

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

A point of distinction between true kingdom people and those who are not is not measured by how much they attend church or how many great works they do (Matthew 7:21-23).  Rather,  how they treat others out of gratitude for the mercy that has been extended to them is a critical consideration.  As James says: “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

 

Jesus is Our Shoreline

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