Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Judgment of Mercy






Perhaps it's a knee-jerk reaction to be critical and judgmental towards those who have been entangled and overcome by sin. We sometimes tend to forget  that we are all sinners saved by grace.  Responding with self-righteousness and condemnation is easy.  However, God rarely calls us to do what's "easy".  He demands un-natural and other-worldly actions from us such as mercy and compassion, and modeled it Himself.  Jesus is all-merciful. Why does He extend mercy to sinners?  Why should we?
 

While sitting in the temple teaching his disciples, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees  thrust the disheveled woman at Jesus, in order to test Him. Her disorderly hair streamed around her face.  Her downcast eyes broadcast guilt and shame.  "This woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

 

Jesus responded by deliberately bending over and silently writing on the ground.  They angrily demanded an answer to their accusation, so He stood up and said to them, “ 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 






At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' "

 

 “No one, sir,” she said.

 
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11)

On the floor of the temple was written these words: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and compassion on whom I have compassion."  (Exodus 33:19.)  Actually, that's just part of my flight of imagination.  We don't have a recording of what Jesus wrote on the ground.
 
 It's a bit puzzling why Jesus reacted to her the way that He did.  The Jewish law was clear. She had been caught committing adultery, so she must be stoned.  Why then did He discourage her accusers from doing so?  Why instead did He have a merciful and compassionate response towards her?



 
Instead of spurning sinners, Jesus had a history of spending time with them.  So much so that He was criticized for his behavior.  "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
 
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13
 
Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice",  to the Pharisees, which is a verse with which they would have been very familiar.  He wanted them to respond with mercy, not scorn, to tax collectors and sinners.  Why did Jesus invest His time and energy in sinners?  Luke's gospel fills in the answer for us.  Jesus declared, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32)

The fundamental reason He came to Earth was to call sinners to repentance.  When tempted and snared by sin, He woos us to Him with loving kindness and mercy.   By extending mercy (instead of judgment), His loving-kindness is meant to draw us to Him and lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Showing mercy is the means to calling sinners to repentance.  Our Father God loves us so dearly.  He wants His children to have a close relationship with Him, with no barriers.  Because He is holy God, sin creates a barrier between Him and His beloved.  Repentance enables us to be in right relationship with Him, which is His ultimate goal.

 
After rescuing this woman from an awful death, Jesus didn't stop there.  He didn't tell her, "You messed up but that's OK.  Go and be blessed."  He gave her mercy and kindness to draw her to Him.  Then He gave her a command, "Go and don't commit this sin anymore."  He wanted her to turn from her sin and repent from it, so that she could come to know Him as Savior.
 
We don't know what happened to this woman, but what if...
 
The woman fled, incredulous and in shock that she was still alive. In the midst of the accusation she'd stood immobile with fear, waiting for her accusers to pick up stones and start pelting them at her. It was so odd how they'd all left instead. When the strange rabbi had told her with such gentleness that she had escaped judgment and was free to go, she'd gathered up her robe and run home.  She would never see her married lover again.

 
She couldn't stop thinking about Jesus and how He'd treated her with such compassion and mercy.  The next day she found Him again teaching in the Temple.

 
She sat down to listen, and stayed.  From that day on, she never left the presence of the One who'd given her a judgment of mercy.

Or... she may have simply gone home, been glad she'd stayed alive for another day, never repented of her actions and never turned to God.

If we reject His mercy and refuse to repent, we are "storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed....for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:5)

  
Father God wants His children to extend mercy and compassion towards fellow sinners, and to stay in the awareness that we are all sinners and all have need of a Savior. When we inevitably fall into sin, He doesn't turn His back on us. Instead His loving kindness draws us to Him. His mercy is meant to lead us to turn away from our sin and give our lives over to our Holy, compassionate and merciful God.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy..."  (Micah 6:8)  Jesus wants us to extend the same mercy and compassion we have received from Him, to others who fall into the pit of sin, thus helping to lift them out and set their feet on solid ground.


Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
 

 

 

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