Last week we looked at the matchlessness of God’s forgiveness.
We saw how gracious God is because even though we break His law, He forgives us when we repent.
After the service last week someone came up to me and commented that if that is what God is like and if we are to become like Him, that means we need to learn what it means to also forgive in a similar way.
He mentioned that that was a significant challenge.
What an important observation and interestingly the truth which today’s Scripture readings point to.
When I asked Dorothy to read Scripture and she read the Joseph story, she commented that it was a very powerful story.
It is indeed!
What Joseph did after his brothers abused him so badly is a powerful example for us also.
Life is not fair.
Oswald Chambers says, “We are going to meet unmerciful good people and unmerciful bad people, unmerciful institutions, unmerciful organizations, and we shall have to go through the discipline of being merciful to the merciless.”
So as we think about imitating God’s mercy, let’s see what we can learn from Luke 6:36-42.
I. Showing Mercy
We are glad to show mercy to our family and friends.
They can be counted on to show mercy back to us and to show mercy to us when we fail them.
That is a good thing.
What a blessing to live among people who show mercy to each other.
Showing mercy to those who are having a difficult time is something we also do quite gladly.
Even though we may not get anything back, we receive the blessing of a “Thank You!” and the knowledge of having done something good for someone else.
That is a good thing.
It is always rewarding to be kind to others.
But showing mercy is raised to a new level when we are called to show mercy to people who do wrong things and to people who do wrong things to us.
Yet that is the context in which Jesus says, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:27-35 is a powerful passage which calls us to love our enemies pointing out that when we show mercy to those who will not return the favor and who are in fact our enemies, that is when we are most like God.
Last week we noticed that God has shown mercy to those who have sinned against Him and that is the kind of mercy we are called to show to those who do wrong and who wrong us.
That is the kind of mercy that is commanded in verse 36.
But what does that mean?
Although verse 36 concludes the previous section, it also is a heading for what follows.
In verse 37, Jesus begins to develop some of the practical implications of what it means to show mercy when someone has done wrong or has wronged us.
He mentions three things, two negative and one positive.
!! A. Do Not Judge
The first thing showing mercy means is that we will not judge another person.
Making a judgment means assessing a situation and making assumptions about it.
The Daily Bread article for Thursday told the story of four black men who on February 1, 1960, a time when segregation was still entrenched in law, sat at a white’s only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
One of them told how they saw an older white woman sitting near them and looking at them.
This person thought that she was upset with them and against what they were doing.
By thinking this they were judging her.
They were assigning motives to her.
How surprised they were when she came up to them and put her hands on their shoulders and told them she was proud of them.
When they judged her, they were violating God’s command to show mercy.
Another way we judge people is by categorizing them.
If we believe that because someone is a certain way just because of their race or because their whole family is like that or because they have been like that in the past we are judging them.
If we then make negative comments about them because of those prejudices, we assassinate their character and are guilty of judging them.
Jesus is very clear in telling us “do not judge.”
In Romans 14 Paul discussed eating meat sacrificed to idols.
In that context in verses 3 & 4, he speaks about two sides of judging when he says, "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?"
In this story those who had freedom were warned not to judge by looking down on those who did not have freedom.
At the same time, those who did not have that freedom were warned not to judge those who did by considering them unfaithful.
!! B. Do Not Condemn
Next Jesus says, “Do not condemn.”
Although similar to judging, condemnation has the added feature of passing sentence.
Judging is the first step in which we make assumptions, and condemning takes it one step further when we decide the consequence.
Many years ago I attended a convention.
One of the people speaking was representing the school which was supported by the conference.
He was a young man and had shaved his head bald.
At that time, only very rebellious people did that, not everyone, like today.
I heard dismissive comments about him from some people who condemned the school for letting such a person represent them.
What they did not know was that he had just finished chemotherapy and was bald because of the effects of it.
There are many ways in which we condemn people.
Sometimes we stop talking to them, or we talk about them, or we avoid them.
Jesus warns us that we must not do so.
Even if people have sinned and we believe that condemnation is appropriate, I believe this warning from Jesus applies.
People who have sinned do not need us to be critical because they know in their own hearts that they have done wrong.
It is the work of the Spirit to convict a person of sin.
It is our job to show compassion and extend forgiveness because that is what it means to show mercy as God shows mercy.
!! C. Forgive
After these two negative statements, Jesus identifies a positive one when he says that instead we are called to forgive.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do and we need to do it well.
One of the misconceptions about not judging or condemning but instead forgiving is that if we are going to show mercy we believe that people will get away with wrongs done.
Forgiveness does not overlook wrongs done.
True forgiveness acknowledges that a wrong has been done.
Instead of holding the wrong against someone, when we forgive we choose to declare them free from guilt for the wrong.
Jesus calls us to that kind of forgiveness.
Of course, when we forgive, we must recognize that our feelings will not always match up with the decision we make to forgive, but we must do so anyway and allow our feelings to catch up later.
Often after we have forgiven, we may still experience negative feelings, perhaps repeatedly, towards the person.
In that case, we should make the choice to forgive all over again.
That is a part of what I believe Jesus meant when he called us to forgive 70 times 7.
I believe forgiving repeatedly may mean choosing to forgive the same offence as it comes up in our heart as a condemnation again.
To forgive means to set a person free and release them.
It is an important part of showing mercy.
These are the practical ways of showing mercy and in this passage we are commanded to do these things.
The Reciprocity of Mercy
But in this verse and the next one we also see that it is for our good to show mercy.
Last year when we planted our garden we planted what we thought were jalapeño peppers.
When we bought them, the little sign said jalapeno peppers.
As they grew we began to wonder about them because they did not look like what we expected.
When harvest time came we discovered that they were banana peppers, not at all what we wanted.
One thing I am quite sure of is that they did not change to banana peppers in mid season.
We were mistaken in what we planted because it is an axiom of life, as Jesus has said, that “you reap what you sow.”
In the verse we just looked at, we heard Jesus’ words that we are not to judge, condemn, but rather forgive.
But Jesus also said that if we do not judge, we will not be judged.
He also said that if we do not condemn, we will not be condemned and if we forgive, we will be forgiven.
Here Jesus speaks of a reciprocity of mercy.
The next verse also speaks of this reciprocity of mercy.
Verse 38 has often been used to encourage financial generosity.
If you are generous with what you possess, you will receive everything you need.
But why would the theme suddenly change.