BE MERCIFUL

BE MERCIFUL

Luke 6:36-42 NET

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Someone who is blind cannot lead another who is blind, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

When the LORD tells me to do something, I don’t normally stop and ask him why. I figure he has his reasons. But since we have been studying the commands of Christ for several months now, I think it might be appropriate for us to stop before we go any further and try to figure out why he wants us to do these things. Why should Christians obey the commands of Christ?

We could probably find several correct answers to that question this morning. But the reason that seems to be totally obvious to me after we have gone through all these commands so far is that we lead other people to God by imitating his character. We see that in the first verse of today’s text: Jesus commands his apostles to be merciful, even as God their Father is merciful. Jesus said a similar thing in one of his beatitudes. He said “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Matthew used a different word for merciful in Greek, but it looks like he was talking about the same thing.

We need to learn to be consistent in our obedience to Christ’s commands. We don’t do this to get saved. Obedience cannot save you, even obedience to Christ’s commands. We are saved by faith in God’s grace, through the obedience and righteousness of Christ demonstrated by his death on the cross. That is the only means of our salvation. But once we come to Christ in faith, declaring him to be our king, and committing ourselves to become active in his coming kingdom, we have a choice. We can choose to act consistently with that faith and obey our new king, or we can choose to shipwreck our faith by disobeying him.

I believe anyone with true faith in Christ is going to want to live out that faith by obeying his commands. I also believe that this is God’s plan for saving others. Jesus told his apostles that they were the light of the world. He implied that if they obeyed his commands, it would light the way for others to come to him and be saved. You and I are recipients of the same promise, and that is why we also must consistently obey his commands.

I chose the Luke passage for today’s study because it goes into more detail about what it means to be merciful. That is the primary command that Jesus is drawing our attention to. A merciful person is someone who does not retaliate when he is wronged. A merciful person is someone who chooses to overlook an insult and chooses to not get even when he is injured.

Note the context of today’s passage: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people” (Luke 6:32-35).

God is kind to ungrateful and evil people. If we want to imitate him, we are going to have to be kind to ungrateful and evil people too. We have to learn to act mercifully. In fact, Jesus makes it clear in verse 36 that this is not something that we will be able to do automatically because we are Christians. The word for “be” in verse 36 is γίνομαι — a word that actually means “become.” If you and I want to imitate God and lead other people to Christ, we are going to have to work at becoming merciful. Today’s text can show us how.

A merciful person sees beyond another person’s failures (37).

Jesus says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” These are three examples of the choice to be merciful when you are confronted by evil.

First, we have to choose not to judge. Now, again it is important to understand this statement in its context. Jesus is not telling us to withhold our value assessment of another person’s theology or lifestyle. He actually criticized the hypocrites because they failed to judge for themselves what is right (Luke 12:57). The apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers that they were wrong to go to court with one another before unbelieving judges. He argued that the church itself should be able to settle its own disputes. In fact, he said that in the future we will judge angels. His point is that the church is exactly the place for finding out what is right and wrong.

So, if Jesus is not talking about that kind of judgment — the settling of disputes within the congregation — what is he talking about? I say again, God is kind to ungrateful and evil people. If we want to imitate him, we are going to have to be kind to ungrateful and evil people too. We have to learn to act mercifully. Mercy is a means of evangelism. Mercy is a way of turning an enemy into a friend — more than a friend — a brother or sister.

The first step is to see that unbeliever not as an enemy, but as a potential fellow believer. It is what you choose to see. If you look only in the flesh, you will only see a sinner. But if you choose to look beyond that person’s failures, you can see a sinner saved by grace.

Jesus says, do not judge. To judge means to criticize. The problem with light is that it exposes the ugly things that you could not see when you were in darkness. But once the light shines in the living room you see the dust, the dirty carpet, the stain on the sofa, the crack in the window, the ants crawling on the floor, etc.

Our tendency — even as believers — is going to be that we will see the bad things that people do, and the evil motives behind those actions. If we are not careful, we will become the wrong kind of a perfectionist. The right kind of perfectionist is the kind who carefully removes the logs from his eyes before he ever mentions the sawdust speck in the eye of his neighbor. But the wrong kind of perfectionist is the kind who is always criticizing, always finding fault. That kind of person will not win others to Christ. Every wrong thing he experiences will be another obstacle keeping him from making friends and influencing people with the gospel.

After criticizing, the next step is condemning. This is a step further because criticism may be just a private value judgment. But condemnation is a public sentence. Jesus commands us not to condemn. By condemning someone — even if what they do is evil — we separate ourselves from that person. We isolate them from ourselves, which means that they no longer have access to the light of the gospel. We effectively say that since they did X and it resulted in Y then they no longer deserve the grace of God or the mercy of God.

After criticizing and condemning, the third step in the wrong direction is failing to forgive. Jesus tells us to forgive. He does not say that we should forgive only if a person asks for forgiveness. He does not say forgive only once, but seventy times seven. Try to obey Jesus at this point and you will lose count. That’s the point. If we are really interested in leading someone to Christ, we are going to be merciful toward them. We are not merciful because they deserve it. We are merciful because they need it.

Failing to forgive means holding a grudge. Grudges keep us from the very people God wants us to bring to Christ. It is very easy to effectively isolate yourself from all the people God wants you to evangelize. Criticism, condemnation, and failure to forgive are all human nature revealing itself. You have that human nature, and your first inclination when someone does or says something wrong is for you to act according to it. But you also have God’s nature since you are a born-again child of your heavenly Father. He is merciful, so you should also be merciful. Instead of criticizing, overlook the offense. Instead of condemning, love the offender. Instead of isolating yourself from him, forgive him and get closer.

A merciful person invests himself in the needy (38).

Jesus says “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” He has not changed the subject. He is still talking about how we can become merciful like our heavenly Father is merciful. Have you ever noticed that he gives to all kinds of people? He does not seem to be too choosy about who he gives his rain. It falls on the just and the unjust.

When Jesus talks about giving here, he means all the ways you can enrich another person’s life. It is not just about money. But money is a good illustration. We all have certain things we like to give to, and we have a list of other things we choose not to invest in. If you are not sure what I’m talking about, I invite you to take a look at your monthly bank statements. They reveal just where your money went. You can also find out the things that are really important to you. Dr. J. Ronald Schoolcraft preached a sermon about this entitled “The Gospel According to Stubs.” He implied that if you really want to know what is important in your life, check your check stubs.

Now, there are all kinds of needy people in the world. Some people don’t get enough food. Some need more adequate health care. Others are victims of drugs and other addictive substances. Jesus’ encouragement is for believers to reach out to people with these needs and help them, and we will find that when we have a need, there will be someone doing the same for us.

But we have to keep in mind the context of this statement. There is a category of needy people that you probably did not think of when I made the above statement. These may have enough food. They may have a good health insurance policy. They may even not suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. But they need something even more basic. They need a relationship with Jesus Christ. They need to get their names on the roll of God’s coming kingdom. They need faith in God. They need to be born again.

These — more than anyone else — need God’s mercy. Jesus tells us to invest in these people. Some of them do need more food. Thank God for ministries like the food bank and the world hunger fund. They are simple investments that show others we care about them. They just might make the difference between someone listening to the gospel or rejecting it. Any way that we can invest in the needs of others might just be a way to link them with someone who can share the gospel with them.

A merciful person learns to rescue others by first repenting of his own sins (39-42).

Jesus said “Someone who is blind cannot lead another who is blind, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit? A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”

The first thing we need to do is learn how to live mercifully toward others. If we insist on being the wrong kind of a perfectionist, we are going to be useless in bringing other people to Christ. We will criticize and condemn and fail to forgive every time we are wronged. We will turn against all our neighbors. Even if we see them ambushed and beaten on Jericho road we will not stop to help them. We will criticize them because of the color of their skin. We will condemn them for their lack of common sense. We will let all their old failures keep us from being merciful toward them.

God has a means of rescuing our enemies from their sins. He offers them forgiveness through Christ, and eternal life on the last day by means of the resurrection unto eternal life. But Jesus has chosen you and me to be his representatives. We are the ones he has chosen as his witnesses, declaring his good news of deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin and warning about the sure destiny of destruction in hell for those who reject the good news.

But what if we choose not to be merciful? What if we are perfectionists toward others and not ourselves. What if we get so fixated on those specks of sawdust that we spend all our time criticizing them, condemning them, and holding grudges against them? I’ll tell you what will happen. They will turn their backs on us and our message. They will say “if this is what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want anything to do with it.”

But what if we take Jesus seriously on this issue of being merciful? What if we take special care to remove all those logs that are keeping us from looking and acting like our heavenly Father? What if we get our act together so that when someone does do something bad to us, they are ashamed of their actions. What if we give to people just because we want them to be blessed. God is not going to forget that kind of investment.

Something else is going to happen too. If we who claim to be disciples of Christ start living like him — being merciful like him — loving those who mistreat us like he did… The world around us is going to notice. Some of those same people we count as our enemies today are going to be drawn to Jesus by our acts of mercy. They will want to be our disciples because they see something in us they want to see in themselves.

NOTES:

merciful: “being concerned about another’s unfortunate state or misery, merciful, compassionate” (Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. [BDAG]).

“Merciful action requires human initiative without any reservations; it realizes the demand for unlimited love” (Strecker, Georg. The Sermon on the Mount. T. & T. Clark 1988. p. 39).

“Out of the beatitudes for the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the persecuted, and out of the cries of woe against the wealthy, the satisfied, the happy, and those who seek the praise of people, arises the appeal to be guided by God’s mercy. It is striking that the command to love one’s enemies is placed at the very beginning, in a lengthy statement that also calls for renunciation of resistance and retaliation, and for giving and lending without requiring repayment, and climaxes with the admonition, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). The sayings regarding not judging, forgiveness, and ready generosity follow immediately” (Schnackenburg, Rudolf. All Things Are Possible to Believers: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. 1st ed. Westminster John Knox Press 1995. p. 27).

“Do not judge and your house will not be destroyed when the judgment turns on you. Do not condemn so that the final storm of condemnation will not sweep your house away. Forgive and the waves will be forgiving. Give and you will receive back a good measure, shaken together and poured into your lap. You cannot possibly measure and saw and hammer your house when there is a log in your eye. So does it make sense to be distracted by the sawdust in your brother’s or sister’s eye? Before you can get on with your work—much less help your brother or sister with his or her speck—take the log out of your own eye” (Card, Michael. Luke: The Gospel of Amazement. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2011. p. 93-94).

“For this reason the Golden Rule is “golden” only when interpreted in the light of its Christian context, not in a secularized abstraction. In Luke it occurs as a kind of summary in the middle of the section on loving enemies and forgoing retaliation (Luke 6:3). This context gives the rule a loftiness it cannot have in isolation. Doing as you would be done by now means far more than calculating one’s self-interest, because its meaning is illustrated by love of enemies and non-retaliation. The rule is then immediately contrasted with reactive reciprocity in the follow- ing verses, for example, Luke 6:34: “If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” The ultimate clue for interpreting and applying the Golden Rule is provided by the section’s concluding verse: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). (Hare Douglas R. A. Matthew. John Knox Press 1993. p 80).

Romans 2:1, 19

Romans 14:3, 10

James 4:11

1 Corinthians 4:3-5

1 Corinthians 11:1

1 Corinthians 13

James 2:13

James 3:1

Matthew 5:19

Matthew 15:14

John 7:24

Proverbs 19:27

20221030 BE MERCIFUL.mp3