God Stories – Mercy Part II June 1, 2003
Receiving God’s Mercy
In Les Misérables the antagonist is a police man named Javert. He is a pitiful man who believes in judgment alone and not mercy. Last week we saw the clip from the movie where Jean Valjean receives mercy from the Bishop and I told you that he lives the rest of his life trying to give the same mercy he received. Javert, on the other hand tries to live his life on the basis of justice and the rule of law – he says things like “once a thief, always a thief.” At one point of the movie he makes a mistake and requires the mayor to punish him – his justice must even apply to himself – but the mayor (Valjean in disguise) has mercy on him, finally ordering him to forgive himself, because the chief of police must obey an order from the Mayor. He is forever in pursuit of Valjean to bring him to justice. At one point in the story Valjean is given the chance to kill Javert, and be rid of his pursuer forever. Instead, he has mercy on him and sets him free. In the final scene, Javert and Valjean meet up again
Javert cannot live with the reality that Valjean has been redeemed, and is a better man than he is, when he catches up with Valjean in the end, he sets him free and kills himself because he cannot live with the mercy that was shown him and the mercy that he gave.
Javert is a great example of how we cannot receive mercy unless we will give mercy. Javert would not give mercy for others or for himself. Mercy was such an offence to him that he literally could not live with it.
Jesus tells us that unless we give mercy, we will not receive it. On the positive side, he says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
Letter from Merrill that I received after that Sunday
I want to share with you what I saw during the last song that Fred played at the end of our Sunday service. I saw a lake with lots of boats on it. I believe one person was in each boat - sort of like a rowboat. I certainly know I had a boat and I believe others of our church family had their own boats. The boats were filled with cargo (boxes). I knew the cargo was made up of judgments etc. As a result there was no room to receive the grace the Lord had for us. I felt He was asking us to dump our cargo and let Him fill our boats with His grace.
Our judgementalism and God’s mercy cannot exist together
"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
"The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, "Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, "Pay up. Now!’
"The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, "Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
"The king summoned the man and said, "You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."
If our ability to receive mercy is contingent on our ability to give mercy, we better learn how to do it.
We start by dealing with our judgments.
The difference between judgment and discernment. There have been many people who have quoted Jesus in saying “Judge not lest ye be judged” as an excuse for all sorts of sinful behaviors. When Jesus says to not Judge, he means not to pass judgment on people, but we need to be able to judge between right and wrong. We don’t condemn people for bad behavior, but we do not sanction the behavior and allow unrepentant people a place of leadership.
The ways that we place judgments on others:
Placing ourselves above others.
When we pass judgment on others, we are setting ourselves above them and declaring that we have the right to decide who is worthy of blessing, and who is worthy of punishment
All is judged on how it affects me – Jonah & the vine – in the 4th chapter of Jonah, the Ninevites have repented, God has mercy on them, and Jonah is angry – Angry because the destruction that he prophesied is now no longer true, angry that God has had mercy on his nation’s enemy and they will live another day to attack Israel. So he goes outside the city and sets up camp. God has a vine grow up over his shelter to shade Jonah from the sun – Jonah is very happy about the vine. Then God sends a worm to kill the vine, and Jonah is very angry. God comes to Jonah and says “do you have a right to be angry?” and Jonah says, “yes! Enough to die!”
God says you’re so concerned about this vine, but you could care less about all the people of Nineveh even though they don’t know their left hand from their right.
We are so much like Jonah – we judge people based on how their actions affect our lives – so if we are put out of our comfort, or if their actions are not meeting our felt needs, they are the problem, not us and our needs.
We need to get our minds of ourselves and our needs and onto God and his view of the right for our lives.
We are children – we are called to be parents – we are not to be the child. Children’s world revolve around themselves and their felt needs, if their needs are not being met, then they are having a very bad day. Parents on a good day, see their role as meeting the needs of their children, of parenting them, of allowing mistakes, but shaping their children toward goodness. We need to stop passing judgment on people just because they don’t meet our needs – we need to grow up and here the call of God to be the parent and serve the others in our life.
“My strengths are the most important “
We judge people when they don’t live up to the standards that we have set for ourselves – standards of order or freedom, standards of use of gifts – when those we are judging might not even have those gifts, standards of worship or prayer or lack there of. We are the people God has made us to be with the gifts and strengths that he has given us. We must stop judging people because they are not as good as we perceive ourselves to be.
Blindness to my own weakness
1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ’Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Placing everyone on the same low level (the “Who do they think they are?” syndrome)
To men are fishing on a pier, the one has his can of worms with a lid on tight, and every time he needs a worm he crack the lid just enough to reach in, grab a worm fast and snaps the lid shut, the other fellow has his can wide open with no worries at all. The guy with the lid shut tight says “what gives? I can hardly get a worm with out them all escaping, but you don’t even keep a lid on. The other fellow says, oh, that’s easy, you’ve got American worms. I’ve got Canadian worms, if one of them gets a little higher than the others they just pull him back down.
Sometimes when those around us start to excel, we get our noses out of joint and start to think “who do they think they are?” And we begin to judge them for even trying – because we “know them” and “know where they’ve come from.” Maybe we think we know their faults and judge that those faults disqualify them for the position that they are moving toward. Maybe we have disqualified ourselves from certain positions because of our faults, and therefore, everyone else should be disqualified as well.
We use our perceived humility to judge those around us if they are not being as humble as we are.
How to learn to show mercy
Pray – this is a miraculous work of the Spirit.
If you struggle with judgementalism, you are going to need help – this is a big one to get over – pray.
Judgementalism comes from pride and arrogance, and Ed Silvoso says that pride is like bad breath - everyone knows about it except the one who has it. So pray.
Pray for God’s help and his mercy, pray that he would fill you with his Holy Spirit of mercy, pray that he would open your eyes to his mercy on you and on everyone around you. Pray that he would blind you to people’s faults for awhile until you can have mercy on them – pray for the spiritual gift of mercy.
Believe in the Redemption of God
Part of judgementalism is that it names people fort their faults – thief, liar, pervert, disorganized, hack,… But God does not name people like that As Christians we believe that everyone os redeemable – that God can take anyone and change them into a totally different people in his grace.
Know his mercy for you
Not to meditate too long on your foibles and downfalls, but to ask where would I be without Jesus’ mercy? Many Christians are so unaware of his mercy in their lives. Ask him to show it to you, meditate on it. The more we know and understand his mercy for us, the more we are able to give it to others.
Jesus tells the story of the of a religious leader and a tax collector – Luke 18
9He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: 10"Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. 11The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: "Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. 12I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, "God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’"
14Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."
Which one would you rather have as a friend?
The tax man knew that he needed God’s mercy. We need God’s mercy every day – what ever standard we have set, God’s is infinitely higher, we could never reach it, we are a experiencing his mercy just being alive!
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Know his mercy for others
Ask God to help you to see people the way He sees them, ask him to show you the mercy that he has for them.
If God has given mercy to people, who are we to judge them?
Stop judging – Paul – the Corinthians were extremely judgemental Paul – the very guy who brought them to faith and planted the church – It is often easiest to judge those who lead us – sometimes pastors – What did you have for Sunday lunch?” - “Roast preacher.”
This is what Paul says
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Paul declares that God is the only judge – Paul doesn’t even judge himself – it maybe that you have judged yourself and found yourself below the standard, and you apply the standard to everyone else and find them below as well. So you walk around looking like you’re sucking on persimmons. Don’t you set the standard, or judge by it – let God do that. Trust Him, he knows what he is doing.
Mercy is giving people more than they deserve. If it is hard for you, start to practice it like you do giving a tip at a restaurant. At a restaurant you take your bill and you leave 10-15% as a tip. (if you don’t you should) So when you are dealing with people who need mercy, take the mercy that you would give them and … double it, or as Jesus teaches multiply it by 7 and again by 70. consciously give mercy to people who do not deserve it. – that is why it is mercy – if they deserved it, it would be justice! See it as a spiritual discipline, give mercy.
God pours out his mercy on us constantly, but if we do not give it away to others as we, he takes it from us. We must live in his mercy, and give out his mercy.