In our last lesson, we considered the Pharisees in light of Matthew 9:13 – Jesus instructing the Pharisees to learn of God’s desire for mercy and justice. We looked at the roots of the Pharisee movement, where they had good motives, and where they went wrong. We concluded that we must speak where the Bible speaks, remaining silent where it is silent, but we must not become unmerciful and self-righteous in our efforts.
Because Jesus emphasized mercy with the Pharisees, we are going to look at the concept of mercy and how it affects us. Mercy and compassion are not the same thing. Having compassion is not being merciful because mercy requires action while compassion is merely an emotion.
Why Is Mercy Important?
It Is a Characteristic of God.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses asks to see God’s glory – God mentions grace and mercy before He shows Himself to Moses. In Exodus 34:5-6, His mercy is mentioned again in context of revealing His glory. In Deuteronomy 4:31, Moses calls Jehovah a merciful God, and Psalm 145:8 describes God as merciful, gracious, and slow to anger. In Joel 2:13 and Jonah 4:2 regard the Lord’s mercy (even though Jonah’s intentions are not exactly right).
We emphasize God’s holiness and the importance of emulating that holiness, but on the same token, God describes Himself as merciful, gracious, and slow to anger. Mercy should be important to us because it is a quality of our Lord.
It is Something We Ask of God.
In Luke 18:9-14, we have the familiar story of the publican and the Pharisee. Very simply, the publican asks for mercy, and Jesus describes him as justified in God’s eyes. We recognize that we need God’s mercy, and we know we are unjustified without that mercy. Mercy is asked for around forty times in the book of Psalms. We ask for mercy because we know we need it.
It is Something God Asks of Us.
Paul, in Romans 12 speaks of the opportunities and talents we should be using for the Lord. Paul speaks of spiritual gifts and natural gifts, and in this context, mercy is emphasized. Luke 6:31 is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, and verse 36 brings mercy into this context of how God expects us to treat each other, and James 2:13 warns us that being unmerciful results in judgment without mercy. However, James also says that mercy can triumph over judgment.
Hosea 6:6 states that God desires mercy, and Micah 6:8 asks of kindness. These are qualities God looks for in His people. He takes delight in merciful people (Micah 7:18). I Corinthians 13 emphasizes love heavily, and, in verses 2-3, Paul states that great deeds done without love are no good to us spiritually. As God is merciful, we should be merciful.
Areas We Can Grow
Showing Mercy to the Lost
Do we have concern for the souls of those who do not agree with us, or do we view them as enemies. Remember how the Pharisees treated the healed blind man – casting him from the temple – and the adulteress – seeking her execution. Are we similar? Matthew 9:10-13 provides context to the quote we’ve been looking at on mercy. Sometimes we act as if the gospel is for the righteous – not for all. In that, we may be unmerciful.
Showing Mercy to New Converts
All too often, we treat a new child of Christ as if they are already matured. We expect instant knowledge and resolution on principals and scriptural interpretation. Sometimes, we come down too hard on individuals who are not at the same level of understanding.
Showing Mercy to Fellow Christians
We listen to “reports” about other brethren, within our own congregation and without. We pass judgment, but we don’t look for verification nor speak to the individuals we may be judging. We condemn on the basis appearances, and we have a difficult time giving the benefit of doubt, and we have a difficult time merely listening when differences of opinion arise. In Galatians 5:13-15, Paul warns Christians not to bite and devour each other lest they destroy themselves. This is spiritual cannibalism that can cause congregations to self-destruct. Matthew 12:7 provides a warning: judging without mercy can result in condemning the innocent. While we fight each other, we fail to fight the fight of faith.
Mercy is an incredibly important part of our Christian lives. We need to work hard to demonstrate mercy to others, even those it may be most difficult for. We strive to “be holy as [God] is holy,” and God expects us to be merciful as we hope for His mercy.
lesson by Tim Smelser