A Mission of Mercy
This morning I want to talk you about mercy, something we all need whether we realize it or not.
A rather rich man pays an artist to paint his portrait. When he finally sees the painting, he’s furious."This picture,” he roared,” does not do me justice!" The painter replied, "Sir, the more I looked at you, the more I realized: you don't need justice, you need mercy!"
I have a few photos of myself that could use a little mercy.
But you and I need mercy in more important ways, don’t we? We don’t really like to dwell on them, but they happen from time to time.
Like the night when the trooper pulls you over for speeding, and you ask, Officer, just this once, could you please just give me a break?
Or that day of doom when you get that really bad grade you know your parents fuss about, and you beg your teacher can you please give me some extra credit to make this up?
Please give me another chance...please give me a little more time… please help me…please forgive me…
At some point in our lives, we need mercy. Sometimes you get it; sometimes you don’t. Some people have pity, and some people really couldn’t care less. You’re not always in charge of when you receive mercy. But you are in charge of when or if you extend mercy to others. We all need mercy, but the question I want to pose today is do you show mercy to others?
According to the words of Matt. 5:7 there is a connection between the mercy you show and the mercy you receive. Jesus says the happiest people in the world are the merciful, because their mercy has a way of coming back to them. Let’s explore what that means.
The word mercy is defined by one English dictionary as compassionate treatment of those in distress. That’s a pretty good place to start. Mercy is not an emotion, but it is fueled by an emotion—compassion. Compassion is more than mere pity. Somebody once said that I feel compassion for you when your hurts hit my heart. Compassion is your hurt in my heart.
How does your hurt get into my heart? The word for mercy Jesus uses here means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see with his eyes, think with his mind, and feel with his feelings. The Sioux Indians called this putting yourself in somebody else’s moccasins; we say putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Either way it is a very important way to develop a compassion for others.
Mercy is not just an emotion, but it is fueled by emotion. But mercy is also not just what you feel, but what you do. Mercy moves into motion, doing something about the distress it sees. Mercy is compassion in action.
What kinds of actions are we talking about here? Mercy is demonstrated in 2 ways: giving and forgiving.
Mercy is compassion moving us to give to those in need.
One of the best examples of this aspect of mercy is found in the story of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:30-36 Jesus tells of a man who was ambushed by bandits and left for dead on the side of the road Remember how two men walked right by the half dead man, leaving him there to die? But Jesus says in
Lk 10:33-35 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
This is compassion in action. His heart moves him to give the man medicine, to give the man a ride to safety, to give him everything he needs to recover. The Samaritan is merciful to the needy man—his compassion moves him to help. But it’s true that also
Mercy is compassion moving us to forgive the guilty. In Matt. 18:23-34, Jesus tells another story about a servant who owed his master =$100,000. The master calls in his loan, but they both know there’s no way he can pay this huge sum back. So the master follows standard operating procedure of the day: he orders the man and all his family be sold into slavery. But the servant plays the mercy card:
Mt 18:26-27 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
The master shows mercy to his servant by what he does---forgiving his debt.
Mercy is compassion in action.
Many years ago a New England village a home burned, and the family lost everything. A neighbor drove up to gawk at the smoking ruins and to poke around the scorched shell. Shaking his head and clearing his throat, he told his long time neighbor, “I feel so bad for you. If there's anything I can do, just say the word.” Then he drove away leaving behind only his words.
Other neighbors came too, but instead of asking what they could do, they returned with beds, mattresses, potatoes, vegetables, pots, clothes, hay for the cows. Genuine mercy does something.
Blessed are the merciful, those who put compassion in action, giving help to the needy and forgiveness to the guilty.
Why? Why are merciful people the happiest people in the world? Jesus says ...for they shall obtain mercy….they shall be shown mercy…
Mercy is like a boomerang; the mercy you show others comes back to you.
Sometimes through other people. Not always, you understand. Some people are so self-absorbed and self-centered they suffocate every strain of mercy that dares to rise up in their heart. They wouldn’t show mercy to their own dear grandma.
But there are others who pay attention to how merciful you are, and they show you mercy because of the mercy you show. Then there’s the Biblical law of sowing and reaping---sow mercy, reap mercy. Mercy has a way of coming back to you.
… I love the story about a man who was hiking in the mountains. He was taken by surprise in a sudden snowstorm and quickly lost his way. He needed to find shelter fast, or he would freeze to death. In his wandering he literally tripped over another man who was almost frozen. The hiker had to make a decision: Should he help the man, or should he continue in hopes of saving himself?
In an instant he made his decision and threw off his wet gloves. He knelt beside the man and began massaging his arms and legs. After the hiker had worked for a few minutes, the man began to respond and was soon able to get on his feet. Together the two men, supporting each other, found help. The hiker was later informed that by helping another, he had helped himself. His numbness vanished while he was massaging the stranger’s arms and legs. His heightened activity had enhanced his circulation and brought warmth to his hands and feet.
The mercy you show often comes back to you.
But I believe Jesus wants us to look at the much bigger picture of the mission of mercy: those who show mercy to others receive mercy from God.
Think back to the story of the unforgiving servant I mentioned earlier. This same servant who was forgiven $100,000 in debt goes out and finds another servant who owes him =$10 and demands cough it up! When the poor man asks for mercy, the forgiven servant refuses, and has him carted off to debtor’s prison. When his master hears about this, he calls the hard-hearted man back and says
Mt 18:32-35 32 …‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
The correct answer is yes. He should have shown his fellow servant the same mercy he received. This is a picture of the connection between the mercy God shows you and the mercy you show others.
We always receive mercy from the hand of God.
The prophet Jeremiah says about God’s mercy and compassion
La 3:23 They are new every morning….
Every morning God looks on you with compassion, compassion that gives generously.
Ps 118:1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Mt 5:45 …for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
But God’s greatest masterpiece of mercy was God’s compassion that brought us forgiveness for our sins. He sent His Son, Jesus, on a mission of mercy: to be born of a virgin, to walk this world and see as we see, to hear as we hear, to feel as we feel. His compassion moved Him not only to give, but to forgive. Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins and my sins, and rose from the grave to give you life and me life, to show us the mercy of God.
Tit 3:5 …not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us..
Through Christ, God reaches out His hands of mercy to us, offering us free forgiveness, a new start on life. But to receive His mercy you must repent and believe in Christ.
Once you receive God’s mercy, He, like the Master in Jesus’ parable, expects us to show mercy to one another. He expects you and I to be on a mercy mission to give and forgive, just as He gives and forgives, not just by pitying others, but by putting our compassion into action, doing what we can to help the distressed, the hurting, the needy. He puts these folks in our path, and then He asks us to be His hands and feet and heart to care enough to give
He expects you and I to show mercy by forgiving others, not because they deserve it, but because they don’t deserve it.
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
“But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.”
“But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied.
“Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” He spared her son.[i]
God did not wait until you deserved His mercy to send His Son.
Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you wait until the person who sins against you deserves mercy, you will never forgive them, and you will never enjoy the happiness Jesus promises in this verse. When you are unmerciful, your relationship with God cannot be what it should be, and your heart will eventually grow harder and more bitter until it may even separate you from the Lord.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Jesus assures us the happiest people in the world are the merciful because they receive God’s mercy. This key can unlock the door of happiness for you this morning.
Fulton J. Sheen related an incident that took place when he was ministering in New York City. He was called urgently to an apartment where a girl named Kitty was dying. It was one of the dirtiest rooms he had seen. He asked her if she would like to make her peace with the Lord. She said she couldn’t because she was the worst girl in New York City. Sheen immediately replied that she was not the worst girl in New York City because the worst girl would think she was the best girl. After telling her some of the parables of Jesus she agreed to go to confession. Sheen anointed her and immediately she was better. She was healed physically and even more importantly she was healed spiritually. After her recovery she became an apostle to the people among whom she worked and she brought them to Sheen. They would come to him and say, “Father, I am the person Kitty told you about.” Kitty received the mercy of Jesus and became an apostle of Divine Mercy.
This morning, you can find the same mercy this lady did, because the same Lord is here. His heart is full of compassion for you, and He’s shown you that through His giving. He came on a mission of mercy for you, and today that mission can be accomplished. Why don’t you come to Christ today and let Him show you His forgiving mercy?
This morning you are called to share God’s mercy with others. He calls on you to look through someone else’s eyes, to feel what they feel, and then to give and forgive, and He has given and forgiven you. Who is Christ calling you to be merciful to today? Maybe right now you need to come to the Lord and ask for His help, to commit yourself to His mission of mercy for you.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
[i]10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000). Luis Palau, “Experiencing