According to Jesus, mercy is to be a part of all our relationships.
He said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 ESV)
Mercy is an uncommon practice. Many of us do not even know what the word means. Watch all the television shows, movies and videos on Netflix, CBS All Access and Disney Plus and you will see very little mercy. Mercy is not popular.
Jesus talked about mercy as part of His “Sermon on the Mount.” The introduction or opening of His discourse is as follows:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets." (Luke 6:20-26 ESV)
Jesus teaches exactly opposite of most of the teaching produced by the world. The world teaches the opposite of what I just read. The rich are considered successful in this world, but Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich.” The world seeks to be full (fulfilled), but Jesus says, “Woe to you who are full.” The world seeks to laugh (be happy), but Jesus says, “Woe to you who laugh now.” All these things are the opposite of what we learn from this world.
Jesus is not teaching that we should not be rich, full and happy. He is teaching that we have the wrong idea of what rich, full and happy is. Consider, for example, what He means when He says, “... lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20 ESV) Jesus states the principle that He is teaching when He says:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV)
This principle of the kingdom of God is behind Jesus’ teaching on relationships. His teaching is:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
God gave two great all-encompassing commandments. The first one is:
“...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 ESV)
The second great commandment is:
“...You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39 ESV)
In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus teaches how to apply these two commandments. On loving our neighbor as ourselves, He says:
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31 ESV)
In Luke 6:32-36, three verbs are repeated. Those verbs are: love, do good and lend.
- Luke 6:32 ESV: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?”
- Luke 6:33 ESV: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you?”
- Luke 6:34 ESV: “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?”
These three verbs or actions first appear in Jesus’ discourse in the paragraph just prior to the paragraph recorded in Luke 6:32-36. In Luke 6:27-31, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ... Give to everyone who begs from you.” Our three verbs appear here: Love...do good...lend. As He moves to the second part of His discourse, Jesus repeats these three verbs but this time He adds a statement to each one. That statement is “even sinners (love, do good, lend).” So, we end up with three statements.
- Luke 6:32 ESV: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”
- Luke 6:33 ESV: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”
- Luke 6:34 ESV: “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.”
Verses 32 through 36 repeat the instructions of verses 27 through 30 but the final verse of each paragraph is different. Verse 31 tells us to do to others what we would have them do to us, but verse 36 tells us to be merciful as our Father is merciful.
Before we consider what this means, I want to clarify what it does not mean.
These are not rules for the home. God has laid out guidelines for the home and it should go without saying that the members of our household should not be our enemies. However, this is not the case. This week the Midwest District of the Evangelical Free Church sent out an email, and I want to quote for you from a paragraph in that email. It says:
My police officer daughter informed me that they (Madison, WI) are up 30% in their domestic violence calls since the “stay at home” request was given.
Our county commissioner also commented that domestic violence is up in Sedgwick county since the stay at home order was issued.
Stress, frustration and tension have increased because of circumstances. Jobs are being lost. Finances are being wrecked. Children need to be educated. And the list continues. The frustration and tensions reveal the weaknesses in our relationships and in our characters.
Love is a principle for the home. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. I believe this precludes any beating, belittling, cursing, raping or harming in anyway. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way...” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV).
Mutual submission is also a principle for the home. Ephesians 5:21 says:
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (NLT)
None of this leaves room for domination, intimidation or violence of any sort.
The Bible teaches that at the time of creation, God established marriage as the joining of a man and a woman into one.
Jesus said, “...everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32 ESV) Because of this statement some say that divorce is only permitted in cases of adultery. However, this is not what Jesus is saying. He says that if adultery has not already taken place, a divorce will cause it to take place. Think about it. If adultery is the only cause for divorce, most, if not all women, have an excuse to divorce their husbands because Jesus also said, “...anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) What man among us has not looked at a woman with lust?
Jesus taught, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8 ESV) In Mark chapter 10, Jesus makes it clear that divorce should never happen. However, it happens because of hard hearts. Hard hearted, unrepentant and abusive behavior is not to be tolerated whether it comes from husband, wife or children.
Parent, if you stand by and do nothing while your spouse abuses or sexually misuses anyone in your household, you are party to the abuse and share responsibility. It is not loving; it is not caring; it is not merciful to allow evil to continue unchallenged and uncorrected in a home. Jesus’ command to be merciful because God is merciful should never be used to justify unloving, irresponsible or harmful behavior in our homes (or in our churches for that matter).
Jesus’ instructions in the “Sermon on the Mount” are for kingdom living. We can assume then that our enemies, those who hate us and those who take from us, are outside the Body. We are instructed to correct such behavior or attitudes within the Body.
We are citizens of the kingdom of God and thus we are not citizens of the kingdom of this world. This world’s kingdom is warring against the King we serve, and Jesus is telling us how we are to behave toward the citizens of this opposing kingdom.
Mercy is not a principle the world values. The dictionary defines mercy as:
compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. (Google)
Another way of saying this is:
Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve.
If we are scratching, biting and clawing to get to the top like everyone else in the world, how are we to convince them that we are any different? If we pursue the things this world has to offer just as hotly as those around us, how are we to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God. If we are no different from the children of the kingdom of this world, is there even a kingdom of God to be pursued?
Three times Jesus says, “Even sinners do that!”
He expects us to be different at the core. If we are not, then we must repent. If seeing my enemy pay is more important to me than seeing their soul saved, then I must renounce the god of self and pray for the salvation of my enemy. If seeing the one who does me harm pay is more important to me than seeing their soul saved, I need to ask myself which kingdom I belong to. If being repaid what I lend is more important to me than seeing that person saved, then I need to examine what I value most.
Jesus taught that where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Where is my heart?
Consider with me. God is merciful. I deserve to be cast into hell for my attitudes and actions. But God loved me so much that while I was still His enemy, He gave His only Son to die in my place so that I would not have to die. We are to be like our Father.
I am not telling you how to run your business. I am asking you to examine the words of Jesus and to see if you are living as a child of God’s kingdom or as a child of the kingdom of this world.
Jesus taught that we know a tree by its fruit. One fruit that should be a part of our lives as children of God is mercy. If mercy is missing, we must ask ourselves why.