The Love of God
extends to all – and that Love is shown to all through mercy! Our bible lesson this week comes from John 8:1 – the story of the adulterous woman. Jesus tells us in the be-attitudes (this week’s scripture verse, too!) that, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5. When I first looked at this verse, I thought to myself, “Oh, so if I show mercy to others – let go of their mistakes and allow them a second chance – when I mess up, they will show me mercy too!”
But there is an integral truth that I missed with that assessment. First off, as followers of Jesus, yes, we are called to show mercy. But that doesn’t mean people are required to show us mercy! What Jesus is saying here is that when we show mercy to others, God shows mercy to us by offering us eternal salvation!
But that doesn’t mean it is easy.
The first thing that comes to mind is to sin – to strike back at the person who has wronged us. But, this usually gets us into more trouble! There was one time in my childhood when I went on a backpack expedition with some of my friends. We would hike with full packs, camp out for the night, and continue on our way until we finish the trail we chose. One day, I was lead scout and I made a terrible mistake. I walked right over a copper-head rattle snake. Doesn’t that make your skin crawl?
Imagine if I got bit by the poisonous snake.
Dropping my stuff and running after the snake would help no one! Enacting revenge against the snake, calling the snake horrible names, smearing mud on the snake’s reputation only makes me look a fool! I would only get upset, raise my heart rate, and spread the poison further. Not to mention that I could be bitten again! The best way out of that situation would be to let the snake go, slow the poison’s spread by controlling emotions, slow my breathing and heart rate – then seek first aid, and get the poison out. Striking back at those who hurt us in life is like poisoning ourselves. Instead, we should control our emotions and let the pain go, by showing mercy.
Another, more dangerous reason we find it hard to show mercy
is that we don’t think that people deserve mercy. But that is extraordinarily foolish! When you think “he doesn’t deserve mercy” you have just identified someone who is eligible for mercy. That’s what makes it mercy – it is undeserved. No one, including us, deserves mercy. Mercy is giving someone another chance when he or she does not deserve it, just like Jesus did for us and for the woman in the Bible Lesson today.
Jesus showed mercy
to the woman caught in adultery despite what she deserved. The law she had broken was His. The heart she had broken was His. He knew far more intimately than her accusers what she had done. He, more than anyone else present, would be justified in striking back at her and giving her the punishment she earned. But he showed her mercy. Jesus treats us with undeserved mercy and if we are following His example we must resist the urge to strike back, and remember that we can only show mercy to people who don’t deserve it.
“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.” Zechariah 7:9 (NLT)
“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT)