One of the great questions I have sometimes is not whether God would really forgive me because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I accept this by faith without fully understanding because the Bible tells me so. What puzzles me more is why an infinitely pure holy and powerful God would care to spend eternity with me. And then I come to this verse and am reminded that while the distance from the North to South poles is fixed (12,430 miles) from East to West there is no measure. That measure”s limit lies beyond the edge of the universe, just like the love and mercy of God!
And can it be that even on our darkest days when we face our most difficult people God is giving us opportunity to show mercy? Maybe He leads us through the valley of the shadow so that we can learn to forgive even there. A bit further on and on sunnier days we may discover how merciful and forgiving He has been to us when we were most dark and difficult with others.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy Matthew 5:7
I said, “Lord, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4
Today there is such a fascination with super heroes. Captain America, Superman, Iron Man or whoever our favorite is, appeal to us because they are smarter, stronger and better looking than we are. Our lives seem pretty ho-hum compared to people who are always busy saving the world from the latest bad guy (or gal).
But the reality of life as king David discovered was not just about defeating Goliath. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and our own sins have left wounds behind that we need for God to forgive and heal. David was just as much a man after God’s own heart when he cried out for God’s forgiveness as when he was busy killing giants and winning battles. Jesus didn’t come to die on the cross for Superman, Wonder Woman or the Flash; he came to die for plain vanilla sinners like you and me! The good news of the Gospel is that the one and only truly Superman left His super powers behind and was born in a barn next to cows and sheep. The good news is not that God left us a secret formula by which we could gain special powers, but that He listens when we cry for help.
Remember when Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray? The Pharisee thought he was strong, so never asked God for help. But the tax collector, who knew only too well of his weakness, cried out for mercy and God heard and forgave. Super strength doesn’t come from some mysterious force but from the peace God gives when the blood of Jesus Christ washes clean every stain!
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
Many years ago I heard an interview on Radio Bible. The questioning went something like this,
Host: To what do you attribute your business success?”
Business man “Good decisions”“
Host “And how did you learn to make good decisions?”
Businessman “Bad decisions!”
In our personal relationships with others we are always making decisions. We may decide to trust or to doubt. We may choose to forgive or hold a grudge. Each decision is an investment (or lack thereof) in the life of someone else. You might look at the king’s choice to forgive in the parable which Jesus told as a bad business decision. He could have legally sold this dishonest servant into slavery to recover some of his loss or he could have had him thrown in jail. But instead of richly deserved punishment, this king decided to invest mercy in his servant’s life.
Yet as in this man’s story it appears that the king had made a terrible choice. Instead of generating a return of gratitude in his servant’s heart, this forgiven man went immediately out and acted mercilessly with others. “What a waste! What an awful decision!” you might say about the king’s investment. You might also add, “So he should never do that again!”
But mercy is not like a worldly investment. Jesus parable shows how God forgives each of us. We are exactly like the dishonest thieving servant. We have cheated and stolen and yet God has for two thousand years continued to invest forgiveness in us. How often we must have grieved God’s heart when we failed entirely in our response to his mercy! Is there someone today in whom we can begin to invest even a tiny part of the forgiveness God has given us?
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Matthew 18:21
In answer to his question, Jesus told a story about a king who forgave a servant. Though the servant in Jesus’ story got things all wrong let’s take a look at what he could have gotten right.
The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt Matthew 18:26-27
Just as in our Christian lives, this man’s relationship to the king began by and was entirely based on the forgiveness of his king. Everything hinged on the king’s choice to forgive and accept. Sadly this servant tried right away to make things right by his own efforts Notice he says, “I will pay all.” How many of us determine that we will somehow make it up to God, when in fact we could never ever even in millions of years ever pay God back for all He has done for us!
Our forgiveness is complete! The Bible tells us that the king “released him and forgave him the debt” His forgiveness was not based upon his ability to repay. Forgiveness wasn’t a business decision with terms of repayment. The debt was not only released but the king also took upon himself the responsibility to pay these debts. That is what Jesus has done. When we really understand His mercy then our hearts will change both towards God and others. When His compassion flows into us we need to allow it to flow out to those who owe us any debt!
MERCY – The 10 Christmas Gift
Luke 15:10 …But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy!
Mercy may seem plain and ordinary, to the outside observer; but to the one who receives it Mercy is the most astonishingly beautiful thing on earth!
Mercy Is –
A life-saving pint of blood from a stranger
A handful of tissues when our tears start to flow
A silent embrace when our world fell apart
The light at the door when we come home after dark
A kiss of acceptance from someone we’ve hurt
A check in the mail when we’ve been out of work
Angel songs in the night when we’re out in the field
And a Babe in the manger who’s the Savior of the world!
One of the most successful evangelists in Bible times was a man who needed to learn more about the most powerful weapon he could have used on the enemies of God. The man’s name was Jonah and the weapon was mercy. Our brother Jonah was indeed one conflicted guy! Forget for a moment the entire episode of Jonah, the storm, the fish and the being vomited up on the beach (Yuck!), let’s examine Jonah’s evangelism.
Jonah came to the first day of his evangelistic crusade kicking and screaming. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He didn’t want to go not because he was afraid of being attacked or because he thought he would be a failure. No, on the contrary, Jonah’s greatest fear was that the city would repent and that God would forgive them! Try with me to imagine the thoughts going through Jonah’s mind as he preached. Maybe they sounded a bit like this:
“Okay God so I know I have to obey and preach your message. Here goes: ‘Repent! God is sending destruction on this city!’ ” Then Jonah closed his eyes and prayed that no one would come to the altar! Wow, that might sound like the strangest thing but it was exactly what the Bible tells us. In fact when God chose to forgive the city because everyone was touched by Jonah’s message, he became angry. Let’s listen in on his conversation with the almighty as he is hastily exiting the city. You find this in Jonah 4:2
And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
Before we laugh too hard at this surly prophet, maybe we need to look in the mirror to see if we are really a lot like him.Like Jonah, we may be missing the entire point of God’s mercy. Today in New York and New Jersey the news is filled with the stories of the most recent acts of terror on American soil. Some of us are so angry and frustrated that any act of destruction by us on parts of the Middle East would suit us just fine. But instead of bitterness, we who are Christians have the greatest opportunity to pull from God’s arsenal his most powerful weapon of all – the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. That weapon of mercy is the most powerful because it was also the most costly. Mercy cost God His only Son! As Jesus hung on the cross and became the object of shame and ridicule he could have asked the Father for justice. But Jesus knew that there was nothing more potent that he had available to use on his enemies than grace.
Our brother Jonah’s dream was not to see Nineveh saved. Oh no! Jonah was hoping for God to do to Nineveh something like what had happened with Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus instead looked past the jeering crowds. Jesus saw beyond his few frightened disciples huddling behind locked doors. Jesus looked all the way to heaven and saw a joy that no earthly power could take away and then He released on the world God’s mightiest weapon:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments Luke 23:34