Oct 16 2013
Mercy is really about generosity. When we say God is merciful we are not just saying that he is forgiving, we are saying he is generous in many different ways to those who are undeserving. God heals, delivers, restores, and loves people who are not always faithful to him.
John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, once had a vision of God’s mercy. While driving his car he saw an unusual cloud in the sky. He stopped to have a better look, and as he did so he realized it wasn’t a cloud but a honeycomb that was dripping with honey. Below it he saw people. Some were excited about the honey that rained down and they ran about collecting it and sharing it with each other. Others were irritated by the honey that dropped on them and they tried to get away from it.
When John asked God what it was, God said “That’s my mercy, for some people it’s a blessing and for some people it’s not … look at it, there’s plenty for everyone.”
The point I want to make from Wimber’s vision is this; God is saturated with mercy; he drips with it. So often we think God is a God of judgement, and of course he does judge. But there is another side to his nature, a stronger side; He is rich with mercy.
♦ The people in the vision represent two reactions to God’s mercy. Some people are delighted with God’s mercy and want to share it with others. They want to forgive because God forgave them, they want to save because God saved them, they want to heal because God healed them, and they want to give to others because God gave to them.
Other people find God’s mercy irritating. They don’t like the idea of being generous to the undeserving. They believe God’s blessing must be earned, and that the unfaithful should be punished. They believe in ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ They believe in hating those who hate them, and loving those who love them. But we can be thankful that God does not treat us that way. If God gave us what we deserved we would all be in trouble.
As we look at the Church in general we see both groups of people. Some believers emphasize God’s mercy and others prefer to emphasize God’s judgement. But the Bible says ‘Mercy triumphs over judgement’ (James 2:13). This is true with God, and should be true with his people.
The cross of Christ is the greatest memorial to mercy that the world knows of. Where the Law of Moses highlighted people’s sin, the cross made a way for them to be forgiven and restored. In the cross God reveals his generosity to a world that is undeserving. The cross brings God’s forgiveness, deliverance, healing and provision to a sinful world. The cross is like that honeycomb; it drips with God’s abundant mercy.
If we want to know what God is like we must look to Jesus. He said “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Even before Jesus went to the cross he demonstrated his Father’s mercy. He went about healing the sick, delivering the demonized and forgiving the sinner. He used an Old Testament scripture to describe his ministry saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:16-21). Now, when Jesus says that the Spirit is on him, and that he is anointed, he is basically saying that he is dripping with the Father’s mercy for the poor, the bound, the blind and the oppressed.
The word ‘Christian’ means to be Christ-like. Christians are called to carry on the mercy ministry of Christ. They are to delight in the honey as Jesus did. They are to be generous and to share freely what God has given freely.
There is a big lesson in this for people of all religions. When religion emphasizes law and belittles mercy it becomes legalistic, judgmental and sometimes revengeful and militant. This attitude is often found in religious extremism of all kinds. The cross of Christ preaches against this. It says God is different; his mercy triumphs over judgement. And if his mercy is such a dominating aspect of his character, then his followers should be rich in mercy too.
Christians are never to fall into the trap of taking revenge or holding a grudge against those who have wronged them. We are not to repay evil with evil; we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Jesus set the highest example when he looked at the people who tortured and crucified him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The Church has not always practiced what Jesus taught and demonstrated. To its shame it has often practiced the opposite. But it can look to the cross of Christ and claim with confidence that there is the greatest example of mercy the world has ever known. This is a challenge to every Christian, but also to the followers of every other religion. Whenever we see a cross on a church, a necklace, or a T shirt, we are faced with a standard of mercy that is so powerful it is unsettling, and we are reminded of the nature of the living God.
Other Illustrations used: ‘Raham’ Compassion – related to Womb – the upsurge of God’s emotion for His troubled children.
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