It all begins with mercy

Thoughts on Luke 6:36-38

Jesus invites me to a life that resembles his Father’s character. It begins with God’s mercy; to the degree that I’ve received it, I am told to give it. When I pause and think about how much mercy has been shown to me, count the ways God forgives and restores, remember how God’s patience extends beyond my failings, how can I not offer the same forgiveness and patience to my world today.

Jesus knows his audience, his teaching shows how well he understands the human heart. He knows we are stained by sin, that selfishness is in our dna, so he appeals to our natural, survivor instinct. “You want mercy? then be merciful. Want to avoid judgement and condemnation? then don’t judge and condemn; Forgiveness? then forgive; to receive in abundance? then give abundantly.”

Thank you God for training me in righteousness like I trained Ellie to go outside to pee, reinforcing her good behavior with a treat and a hearty good girl. Now she has

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Me and my good girl, Ellie

learned the proper place to go to the bathroom. So you teach me, a reward for living holy until holy living is my norm.

Thank you also, that I can’t out-give you. I give my little and you give me to overflowing. Like brown sugar, you pack in the blessings.

It all begins with your mercy, it is new every morning. Thank you.

 

Jesus sets the bar pretty high

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27

Changing the punctuation at the end of the sentence better indicates my reaction these words: Love my enemies? Do good to those who hate me? Bless those who curse me? Pray for those who abuse me? What? Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to and why would I want to pull this off?

Such an attitude and its subsequent behavior is easier to accomplish if we keep in mind that God equally loves you and your enemy. God’s mercy is equally offered to you and the one who curses you. Begin by remembering how God’s mercy sought you and made you new in Christ, that same mercy pursues the one who caused you harm. I don’t know the abuse you’ve suffered, but God does. If you can, picture yourself and your abuser standing under the umbrella of God’s grace. You are a child of the Most High; God, your Father, will teach you how to be as kind to others as God has been to you.

And it’s easier to “give to everyone who begs from you” and to “not withhold your shirt from the one who has taken your coat” (Luke 6:29,30) if you ask yourself this question: “Would I give this dollar to Jesus? If Jesus were cold, would I give him this hat?” Of course you would. Picture his face in the needy ones who beg.

Each morning, as you take your shower or bath, picture the love and mercy of God pouring onto you, cleansing you, hydrating and renewing you. Go forth into your day remembering how much God has forgiven you. Offer such love to the ones who least expect it from you, your enemies, haters, cursers, abusers. Show them the mercy God has shown you. Remember, it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. (Rom 2:4) Your doing unto others as you would have them do unto you will lead to a changing world. Amen.

What’s in it for me?

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Luke 6:37,38

“What’s in it for me?” is often the primary concern of humankind. We ask, “How will this proposal benefit me and the ones I love?” Jesus, the wise teacher, understands this part of human nature, so he continues his instruction on becoming his follower with this enticement – You don’t want to be judged or condemned, do you? Then don’t judge or condemn. You want to be forgiven and receive good, don’t you? Then forgive and you’ll receive good things.

Jesus knows us so well, he uses even our selfishness to move us toward the Kingdom.

Jack and I after running the Race for the Cure (I'm a breast cancer survivor)

Jack and I after running the Race for the Cure (I’m a breast cancer survivor)

When I began running, it was with the goal of impressing my fiancee and getting in shape, not a very noble motivation, in fact, very me-centered. Over the years since I began this practice, it’s true, my relational and physical well-being have benefitted, but my motivation has shifted, now I run for the enjoyment and challenge of it. The discipline of running has made me a runner.

Practice not judging or condemning others, even if it’s imperfect in it’s motivation and you will become one who accepts others without condemnation. The more you offer forgiveness and good to others, the greater your capacity to receive forgiveness and recognize goodness.

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Luke 39,40

Bernard of Clairvoux said, “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” Attach yourself to Jesus, let him be your teacher, he will not lead you into a pit. He knows the path and will guide you. Humbly, and imperfectly follow Jesus. Fix your eyes on him, mimic him, ask Jesus to make you “fully qualified and like him.”