God gives mercy to whomever He chooses to give mercy to (Romans 9:18). He is the only one to gets to do that. The rest of us do not have that choice. As believers we are called to extend mercy to everyone. However, there is something in us, a little voice that tells us that, if we give mercy to “certain’ folks who commit “certain” sins, we are allowing them to get away with it. So, we become selective in who we extend mercy to according to how much we like the person, or the sin committed. Let’s face it, who wants to extend mercy to a child’s rapist? Who wants to extend mercy to a terrorist? or, who wants to extend mercy to a serial killer? What about the husband who beats his wife? What about the wife who slept around on her husband while her husband loved her and worked so hard to provide everything she needed?
Beloved, giving mercy is not compromising the righteousness of God. You can call sin, sin and also extend mercy at the same time. We are actually called to do both, to teach what sin is, but also to give mercy. Luke 6:36 tells us, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” At the center of God’s character is his mercy. When God officially introduced him to Moses, He showed us this seemingly contradiction between mercy and punishment:
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)
Concerning sin, the Bible tells us in Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” We are called to tell the truth, to call out what sin, transgression and iniquities are. We have a mandate to be trustful regarding sin, but also a mandate to extend mercy. But what is it about mercy that folks have such a hard time with?
On one hand we see people living their lives any kind way, with no fear of God, embracing lives styles of sin and using God’s mercy as an excuse to sin; this is liberalism taking over our pulpits. On the other hand, we have such rigid approach to God that folks feel that they are condemn; that there is no hope because there is no… mercy. Both of these approaches are equally wrong.
Folks embrace liberalism because they want to follow God and also continue in their sin. Folks embrace legalism because 1) they have become wise in their own opinion (Proverbs 3:7); they actually feel they are better than everybody. 2) They have become arrogant; they don’t understand that they can fall in whatever they see others falling (Galatians 6:1). These folks think they are superman or superwoman. They don’t really understand how weak they are. They don’t really understand that it is the Lord who keeps them standing and, that it is the Lord who keeps them away from facing temptations they can’t handle (I Corinthians 10:13). 3) They don’t see their sin as bad as others or, they don’t see their sin at all. In Matthew 7:4-5 Jesus explains this concept by stating;
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NIV)
The bottom line is that James 2:13 should get our attention when it comes down to giving mercy to others: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (NIV) From this verse we learned two fundamental principles: 1) If we do not show mercy when others screw up, we will receive no mercy when we screw up. That is the danger of our selective mercy; why? BECAUSE WE WILL SCREW UP… GUARANTEED!
We all need mercy; that is the reason why, even from the Old Testament God declares that “…his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning…” Lamentation 3:22-23 (NIV) 2) Mercy is more effective than judgment when it comes down to changing human behaviors. If you are like me, you like to tell it like it is and, many times, we can come across unmerciful. However, God is telling us here that mercy triumphs over judgment.
We must be careful that we do not find ourselves conforming to the world as we see our society becoming more and more unmerciful. If we are in the business of working and helping people with their soul issues; that is 1) their mind sets, 2) their decision-making and 3) their emotions, we better ask God for a deeper understanding of mercy. We must all stop with our selective mercy and we must be willing and able to extend mercy to everyone. That is our universal call as Christians.