“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 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 sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)
Mercy. Too often when we hear that word, we picture a criminal laying his appeal before the court, a victim begging for his life from his captor, or a child pleading for a bully to relent in his thumping. There is someone wanting mercy in each of these situations, hoping for deliverance. However, none of these are good examples of our current condition. We are not criminals laying our lives in the hands of an unsympathetic judge, or victims being held captive by a cruel world, or innocent children living in fear of that bully of bullies, Satan. We are children of Almighty God, His beloved whom he longs to see grow into the fullness of Christ.
That doesn’t mean we are immune from having bad days. Ever had a bad day? Not just one of those everything-seems-to-go-wrong days, but one where you seem to be a bit more off center than usual. The kind of day where you snap at your family, drive like a maniac and think really unkind thoughts about your coworker. It’s like you have forgotten who you are for a brief moment and one bad choice leads to another, and at the end of that day you find yourself asking for forgiveness and mercy for the new day.
It is critical to understand this Father/child relationship when discussing mercy. I believe it is also critical to understand the connection that Christ describes in the passage above between love and mercy. The bulk of the passage details the many ways we can love our enemies: returning good for evil, lending without expectation of repayment and doing to others what we desire for ourselves just to name a few. It is interesting then that Christ ends this list of exercises in love with the statement, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Mercy and love are so inextricably intertwined not only in Christ’s words, but in His actions. How appropriate that God’s greatest act of love and His greatest extension of mercy both come in the shape of the cross. The bleeding Lamb of God on the blood-stained cross the ultimate act of love; the empty cross and a risen savior the ultimate act of mercy; God the Father extending mercy through God the Son and sealing it with God the Holy Spirit.
We are therefore challenged by Christ to love others with an attitude of mercy and to extend mercy in an attitude of love. As His children who have experienced this great and mysterious mercy, it is our privilege to extend it to others, His ministers of reconciliation in an unmerciful world. How amazing is that? Thank God for His mercy to us, for us and through us. May we be merciful as He is merciful.