When we’re really honest with ourselves, none of us is truly holy and righteous. We need the power of Christ every day of our lives to keep walking the talk. All someone needs to do is bump into me on the street and I’m ready to curse them out, never mind just simply calling them an idiot. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:22, “Anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’(or idiot) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” On my own, I’m saying that under my breath all day long, and worse.The Pharisees kept judging Jesus because He spent His time with sinners. People who were obviously not living all high and holy, people who did things openly that were known to be sin. In Matthew 9:10-12, we read, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.” In Luke 7:46-50, we read the story of the woman who pours expensive oil from an alabaster jar on Jesus, and weeping, kisses His feet and dries them with her hair. It is one of the most astonishingly beautiful images, and yet there are the Pharisees again, making a judgment about the woman and about Jesus because He allows her to touch Him. We never hear what the woman’s sins are, she is just described as a sinful woman, and Simon the Pharisee says, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is.” But Jesus knows exactly who she is, and He shares a story with Simon about a two men who are forgiven debts, one who owes a great deal and another much less, and asks Simon which one would love the one who has forgiven the debt more. Simon answers that it would be the one with the greater debt, and Jesus tells him he is correct, and then goes on to describe how Simon has not shown Jesus, as a guest in his home, the most basic common courtesies of the time, but that the woman has done extravagantly more for Him out of love.
God is love, and the most important thing to Him is that we show love. Not just a show as a hypocrite puts on a show, but really show love out of really feeling love. He also wants us to know that we are loved, because He knows that unless we feel loved, we cannot feel love for others, and that when we do feel love, we can love others to overflowing. If we know that we are loved with a love that can always forgive, we can be forgiving of others and not judge them. We have to be careful that we are not just sinning because we know that we’ll be forgiven. Paul tells us in Romans 6:1, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? God forbid!” But the promise of forgiveness and mercy is there for all of us and it is important that we always remember that.I know people who are so much like the Pharisees. Sometimes they’re people who have been Christians all their lives, or at least for a very long time, and sometimes they’re people who once were really big sinners who were not walking with God at all. There are some people who treat church like a club and God like a business contact who you don’t want to share with anyone else because you might lose out on a deal yourself. But God isn’t like that. He loves all of us in an equally extravagant way, and His love is big enough cover and surround and heal each and every one of us in the way that we most need it. And just as with everything else, the more we give of His love, the more we receive it back again. Proverbs 11:25 tells us, “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” That is from the New International Version, and the International Standard Version goes even further, “anyone who gives water will receive a flood in return.” And we read in Luke 6:38,“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.” That is the way that God operates. When we give, we receive even more in return.
I know that I need mercy every day. I am like that woman who was forgiven so much, and He continues to forgive me every day and help me live my life in a better way. There are times when people really do terrible things, things that it seems impossible to forgive. It’s bad enough when it’s people who don’t know the Lord, but at least then I can pray for their salvation – that is after He has helped me get past the anger and hurt. But when it’s someone who calls themselves a Christian? Someone who talks all the talk? That’s a place of very deep pain for me, a place where it is hard for me to forgive and easy to want God to punish them, because they don’t even realize what they are doing and so they just keep doing it and causing more pain because they think they’re right in doing what they’re doing.It’s at times like that when I need mercy the most. When I am feeling justified in being angry and wanting vengeance, when I call out to God and ask for justice, forgetting that if He had given me what I deserved, I would have been dead a long time ago. Instead I am alive and full of His vibrant life. Instead of being cursed, I received blessing. How can I think that I have the right to judge anyone else or ask for Him to bring His judgment on them, how can I believe that I can be the judge of their heart? We can’t ever know what another person is feeling, or what their life is like unless we can somehow be that person. There were so many things I did in my life that I did out of ignorance and fear and desperation. There were other things I did out of foolishness and others that I did out of blindness. God knows that, because He knows all hearts, but if someone else had been doing the judging, I’d be toast.
In Psalm 59:16, David writes “But I will sing of your power; yes I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense, and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You O My Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, My God of mercy.” There are times when we all need mercy, and when we give it we will receive it when we need it. David was human like all of us, and he had his moments of rage and anger against his enemies and those who were trying to kill him, those who were trying to keep him from the blessing of God that had been promised to him. But after he had poured out his heart, honestly, before God, he was always able to say as he does in Psalm 56:4, “in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” It is when we are able to be honest with God that we can receive His mercy. It is when we know that we are human, that we do sin, and that without Him we cannot do anything, but with Him we can do all things, that He can work miraculously in our lives. It is in that place of humility, of going before Him with all of who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly, that we can find the mercy that we need to be free from everything that is holding us back from walking in the blessings He has for us.Jesus did not choose to walk on the earth to visit with people who thought they were righteous. Matthew 9:13 in the New Living Translation puts it this way, “I have come not to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” When we can admit who we are in all honesty, then we can begin to walk in His truth and His light, and we can begin to begin again and finally be restored to all that He has in store for us.