Monday, May 9, 2016

Defining mercy as an individual act in response to God's mercy and not a socialist government


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Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

Mercy isn’t a spectator sport. The entire culture thinks that it is, and we’re tempted to believe it, so we need to hear what Jesus says in today’s gospel lesson.

If the example of the world is to be believed all we need to do in order to be compassionate, is talk about the world’s “injustices” with the right amount of moral outrage in our voices.

Complicating the problem is the example set by our elected officials. They love to be merciful with other people’s money. They compel us to be sympathetic to those they call “less fortunate” through taxation, but forced pity is no substitute for Christian mercy. There’s little we can do about that problem, nor should we waste our energy fretting about it. The kings of the earth will have their day of reckoning with the King of kings, and so will we all if we judge others from a vantage point of moral superiority.

It’s true that there’s little we can do about the problem, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Our call as Christians isn’t to topple governments or even to fix them, but to be merciful toward others, even as our Father in heaven is merciful to us.

Mercy isn’t merely a theory for Christians, but something that expresses itself in the definitive forms Jesus talks about it in today’s gospel lesson. (Luke 6:36-42) But before we speak about them, we should first remember the Gospel, which is our salvation, and the basis for the kindness we show to others. The Father’s love is legendary! When He first reveals His attributes to Moses in Exodus (34:6-7) mercy is at the head of the list. It’s at the head because it’s the most important one, and all the others – gracious, slow to anger, forgiving iniquity and so on...all these get their definition from it.

The word ‘mercy’ in Scripture is derived from: the love that a mother has for the child in her womb. That love is real, constant and undeniable. And this is why, no matter how hard society tries to justify it, women who abort their babies suffer endless guilt. Guilt that can’t be healed by all the anti-depressants in the world, but only by Confession and God’s certain mercy given in Holy Absolution.

How did God show His mercy for us? Not by throwing money at the problem! But by giving His Son to suffer and die on our behalf. To let all the judgment and condemnation of our transgressions fall on Him. He received no mercy as He was judged before Pilate, fastened to the whipping post, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. He received no answer when he asked: My God, my God why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34) No answer that is, until the third day when God raised Him from the dead, even as He will do for us. So rest assured Beloved in Christ, be happy and joyful, because we are the recipients of the Father’s abundant mercy in Christ.

And this is the basis of the love we show to others. Be merciful, not by government decree, not to merit God’s favor, not to receive something in return or to assuage liberal guilt. But be merciful because the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has been gracious and merciful to us.

Mercy isn’t a spectator sport. Once we firmly believe that we are the recipients of God’ Love, then we learn from Jesus how to express it to others. First, it’s demonstrated when we refrain from judging others. This is a much misunderstood term today. When Jesus admonishes us not to judge others it doesn’t mean that should ignore the distinctions between right and wrong or truth and falsehood. It doesn’t mean that we should approve of people’s sins. Neither should we accept it when people use the Lord’s words as a “gag order” to silence preaching of the Law. When Jesus cautions us not to judge or condemn others, He means that we should not consider ourselves morally superior to them. It’s a harsh warning because the pull of this sin is so strong on this matter, and we all do, in fact, consider ourselves more righteous than others. We deem ourselves and our opinions the Standard that everyone else should live up to, but mercy isn’t a spectator sport. Be merciful, as your Father in heaven has been merciful to you, and don’t judge others.

Second, we show mercy when we give generously to others. This verse isn’t meant to promote socialism, enabling, or the redistribution of wealth. In Jesus’ day there were no safety nets. There were no food stamps, Section 8 housing, Catholic Charities or United Way. The poor were condemned to a life of squalor and could only rise above it if people were generous with them. There are cases of true need today that demand our time, our trouble and our money, and usually they’re very close to home. Mercy isn’t a spectator sport, so take note of these situations and be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is

Third, we show mercy to others when we throw off ignorance and eagerly learn the Christian faith. We should all be well versed in the Bible, the Catechism, the Creeds and in the various disciplines of classical education. When we know these things we’re qualified to give people who inquire an eternal perspective. Especially that the sufferings of this present age, aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. Most of us are not pastors, but within the sphere of our daily vocations there is always a need to dispel error, speak eternal truths, and give true consolation in Christ to those who suffer. Mercy isn’t a spectator sport, so cast off your blindness, so that you can show people the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.

Fourth, we show mercy when we take the log out of our own eye, rather than obsessing over the speck in our brother’s eye. The former will take a lifetime, and that leaves little time for the latter. One of the Great Sins of our age, one that’s been institutionalized by the puritanical culture we live in, is the sin of being a busy-body. The sin of interfering in everyone else’s life, when our own life is a disaster. Jesus counsels, first take the log out of your own eye, then you’ll be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Here is a true act of mercy.

Mercy isn’t a spectator sport. First, we receive God’s loving-kindness by faith, then we express it to others in the ways Jesus outlines for us today; not in a flamboyant manner, but quietly, steadily and humbly, never growing weary in well-doing. (2 Thessalonians 3:13 and Galatians 6:9)

We sin against mercy often, so we come to God’s House just as often to confess our sins, receive the absolution, and be strengthened by His Word and Sacrament. May God’s mercy continue in and among us each day. Amen.

~Rev. Dean Kavouras

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