It seems that we keep running into mercy. I guess we should hope that we do, since we all need mercy–from God and from our fellow humans.
An explosive scripture about mercy is found in Luke 6:27-36 (NIV). It’s so explosive and so contrary to our normal thinking, we should read the passage in its entirety:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Do we really believe all this?
We’re familiar with parts of this scripture. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. And maybe a few others. If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt. Give to everyone who asks. If someone takes something from you that doesn’t belong to him, let him have it. Lend to others without expecting repayment. Well, that’s just crazy. Who does that?!?!?
If you don’t do that, Jesus says you’re no better than sinners. Once again, Jesus tries to turn everything on its head. But I’m not sure we quite grasp it; I’m not sure that I quite grasp it. Not really!
Something I thought about as I was reading this scripture again is a situation where someone we don’t regard as being all that responsible asks us for something: money; food; shelter; clothing; a loan; a job. But this person is not a hard worker, can’t hold a steady job, can’t find a job advancement, isn’t as ambitious as we are, or can’t get ahead–because she’s irresponsible. As I read the scripture in Luke, these things that rub us the wrong way don’t create exceptions to Jesus’s teachings–one of his principal teachings: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Maybe we’re not as superior as we think. Maybe we’re running on a string of good luck. Maybe we’ll hit a huge bump in the road that will cause us to fall off our high horse and need help from others. Maybe we start appearing to be irresponsible to others. And, of course, we don’t really know why someone else seems irresponsible just like they won’t really know why we seem that way.
If we blow off these teachings of Jesus, our reward won’t be great, and we won’t be children of the Most High. Why? Because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (and certainly the irresponsible), and we are not. He is merciful, and we are not.
Jesus’s teachings are counterintuitive, countercultural for us, but they are Jesus’s teachings. We don’t have to follow them, but if we don’t, we’re no better than sinners. We may still stick our noses up in the air, but Jesus is concerned about our hearts.