Summary: If we are to be merciful as Jesus commands in the beattitudes, then we must allow God to write His commands on our very hearts.
The Pilgrim’s Path Part-5, Mathew 5:1-12
Written on their Hearts
There are few things of human engineer which are more beautiful to watch than the marching of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. To see them move in perfect sink is astounding as they pivot on a dime, all in unison or in perfect order, as they loft their hand-polished, 10 and one-half pound, M-1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets, through the air and catch them; often throwing them to one another.
With every step that is taken there is the smooth swooshing of their uniforms and the quick snap of their shoe heals as they come back together in seamless unison and the tight rap of their hands slapping the stock of their rifles. As a Marine Corps photographer stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona, I had the privilege of documenting photographically their winter dessert training.
I and the other photographers whom I worked with knew the sounds of the silent drill team very well. Our fathers, in their theology, expressed the sounds of the precision and snap of God’s actions; they have passed down to us a great legacy of the stirring sounds of the wrath of God. Many Modern ears, however, have heard only the soft swooshing of God’s favor, but have not listened for the rifle and the sharp click of the heel.
The beauty of the sovereign God of creation, though, is understood most full in the light of all who He is. He is just, but He also loves. He is strong, but He is also slow to anger and abundant in mercy. Kindness without justice is mere sentiment. Justice without mercy has no power to move or change the stubborn heart. The cross is the only place where the picture is in focus. God’s justice and mercy come together in His love for us sinners.
We speak often of grace as we gather here in the house of God but what of mercy. Are they exchangeable ideals? Are they but perhaps two sides of the same coin? Grace is how God has dealt with our sin. Mercy is how God deals with us. Grace is the act of God in granting sinful humanity a pardon from the penalty for sin.
Mercy is God’s love expressed to us even as we deal with the consequences of our own sin. In other words, Grace is the means by which Christ died for provide for us atonement and forgiveness for sins; mercy is Christ present with me, carrying me, holding me, assuring me, while I walk through the storms of this life.
This morning we will follow along the Pilgrim’s Path one step further, examining the fifth principal along the way of the Master. In Matthew 5:7 Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Today, we will open our ears to the sounds of mercy marching alongside us as we travail the roads of life.
If we are to walk full in the knowledge of His strength, His holiness, and His justice; then we also must learn to reside in and rest in His grace, His forgiveness, and His mercy. Mercy is something to be experienced because mercy is grace’s practical counterpart. Often we confuse the two as though they were the same.
Grace is the means of His presence with me; mercy is His gift of His presence with me in the here and now circumstances of my day to day experience in this life. Grace is how God dealt with sin; mercy is how He deals with me.
Grace is defined as unmerited favor or unwarranted goodwill. Grace is the way that God relates to us in regard to our sin problem while mercy is the way God relates to me in the everyday problems of this life. It is according to God’s abundant grace that our sins have been forgiven. It is according to His abundant mercy that I find the peace, hope, and strength to face the challenges of every day.
In Romans 5:17 the Apostles Paul writes, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”
According to grace sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. According to mercy God deals with each one of us even in our imperfection, inadequacy, and insufficiency. Where we are weak, He is strong. Where there is a need, He provides it. Were we are crooked, He gently straightens us out.
The story is told of a nursery worker about to plant a number of young saplings, some straight and some crooked, thus reasoned with himself – “These straight saplings will no doubt grow up to be fine trees without much attention on my part; but I will see if, by proper training, I cannot make something of the crooked ones also. There will be more trouble with them; no doubt, than with the others; but for that very reason I shall be the better satisfied should I succeed.”