Love Mercy

Sometimes people say that they don’t agree with something I have preached. I would be really surprised if you at some point or another you don’t disagree with something I say.

It’s ok to question and even disagree. There is never going to a person who stands at the front of this church who is right about everything. With whom you are always going to agree. The Apostle Paul says that we should test teaching.
You and I are never supposed to be ‘passive passengers’ but in the right sense ‘critical participants’.

Teaching in the New Testament was more of a dialogue than a lecture. Consider Job, Jonah, Proverbs and Psalms, they are full of questions.
That’s why so often we read of people coming to Jesus to ask questions and to disagree.

If you disagree with me that is awesome, ……. so long as you know why you disagree.

Which fortunately brings us to today’s sermon

Love Mercy

Language is important

Lera Boroditsky has a TED Talk on – How language shapes the way we think[1]

Did you know there are over 7,000 languages in the world? Each of those languages expresses the world around them in different ways.

One of the first things we noticed when Pat and I started to learn Khmer (Cambodian) is that in the structure of a sentence the words are the wrong way around and very simple.

A phrase that was very important to me “Can I have a big bottle of Ankor Beer, please” A vital phrase if you are visiting the country.

Now it turns out there is small bottle and a large bottle of Ankor beer so for a big bottle the Khmer is

“Som Ankor doub tom moi”[2]

There are none of the intricacies of English, literally it translates as

Please Ankor bottle big one. (that’s one as in quantity)

We can forget that bible was not written in English but ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. As the understanding of these ancient languages grows so does our understanding of what the words in the Bible mean.

A translation of the Bible in English can be very different from its translation in French, German Swedish, Zulu, Russian, Indian or Cambodian. I remember when I was teaching theology at the college we would often have discussions with the international students about how their translations differed to ours.

The Bible often speaks of Love but in Greek there are at least three words that can be translated as love – eros, phillios and agape.

One translation of today’s text in Khmer reads “Act, justly Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. The punctuation is important. You could read it ‘Act Justly, Act Love, Act Mercy. Walk Humbly’

I like this translation, love is then included and sandwiched between Justice and Mercy. Justice, Love and Mercy are actions we must engage in. Just like Justice, so Love and Mercy are not just theoretical concepts, good ideas but are a way of living. We are to live our lives that reflect radical justice, love and mercy.

By reading a text in a different way it can help us with our understanding, broaden our vision.

If acting Justly is our action – Loving mercy is our motivation.

Now please understand that whilst we would want to say our acts of justice and mercy are driven by love – the recipients of justice and mercy don’t care where it comes from.

Love mercy – again when you think about it that too can have different meanings. I can love mercy, I can be the sort of person who just loves to have to opportunity to show mercy to other people. Or I can act with loving mercy as opposed to begrudging mercy, convenient mercy, political mercy such as Pilot with Barabbas.

In the text today, we are to do both. We are in our natures to love to do mercy and to offer it in love it is to be loving mercy.

This is why Love is sandwiched in between justice and mercy – if you love then justice and mercy are a natural outflowing of that love.

What is mercy – if this were a lecture or seminar class I would now go around the room and ask for you definitions and write them on a board.  Sadly we don’t have time so I’ll just go to the dictionary instead and give you two definitions

Mercy -:

  1. Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
  2. Kindness that makes you forgive someone, usually someone that you have authority over:

See also – leniency, clemency, compassion, grace, pity, charity, forgiveness,

Biblical Mercy

I came across this quote.

…..mercy then comes to be seen as the quality in God that directs him to forge a relationship with people who absolutely do not deserve to be in relationship with him. Mercy is manifested in God’s activity on behalf of his people to free them from slavery; it is neither theory nor principle……

Because God is the initiator, the mercy he gives is gracious, unmerited, undeserved. [3]

This then is the mercy we are to show to others. gracious, unmerited, undeserved. And I would add unrestrained.

Leviticus 19:33-34 New International Version (NIV)
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among
you must be treated as your native-born.
Love them as yourself
for you were foreigners in Egypt.
I am the Lord your God.

Note :-  They must be treated as your native-born – there is no room for racism because we are to seem them as if they were born here – in the culture of the day ‘as if they were born from your own family.’

Secondly to love them as yourself (a concept Jesus expands on later) To see the foreigner, stranger and alien as if looking in a mirror and treat them as you would want to be treated, indeed as you would treat yourself.

And the motivation for this mercy? Well says the writer of Leviticus it is because you know what it is like to be the outsider, the foreigner, you were the stranger the alien.

I am grateful to Paul Scanlan and his sermon  ‘Love/Mercy is a baton not a gift’ for the next part:-

A Story About Forgiveness

23-25 “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
26-27 “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
28 “The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
29-31 “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
32-35 “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Jesus tells this story as a response to a question by Peter as to how many times to we forgive some one that hurts us. And peter says should I forgive as many as 7 times (as if 7 was a really big ask). And Jesus replies try 70×7 (which is 490) And there are some religious people who would take that reply literally and when they got to 491 they would say well I have done my bit. They would actually keep a record of how many times they had forgiven you.

Jesus is making the point that forgiveness is not about quantity. Forgiveness, grace and mercy and kindness is about quality.

This parable is about mercy and forgiveness but like all parables it is also a window into the nature of God.

You see in an ideal world – a world where the kingdom of God truly is enacted the it is like the king who forgives.

All of you are forgiven – all in the kingdom of God are forgiven.

We have a habit of what we call in the west grading on the curve. We look at others and try to work out if we are better or worse than them.

Folly of grading on the curve.

You see we are all pretty near the bottom, but human nature doesn’t like that. You read the papers when a murder is committed, and people shout for justice and all sorts – forgetting that we too are the offenders.

You tell me you have not committed murder – ever been angry with someone? Jesus says you have committed murder in your heart. Not been like David who committed adultery? But have you ever looked just too long as David did?
Ever called anybody a fool?

Jesus says: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23

If the law applied we are all guilty.

There is not a single person here who didn’t have a debt they couldn’t pay and God didn’t make you pay – he cancelled the entire debt.

Few things make God as angry as forgiven people who do not forgive.

You know the fellow servants see the actions of this man who was forgiven but then refuses to forgive and it says they were ‘outraged’, they were angry at the injustice. They were angry that forgiveness hadn’t been shown.

In the church, certainly in the west people in the churches get outraged over all sorts of things that I don’t think God even worries about. If only we could get motivated to get angry about the lack of forgiveness that would be something wouldn’t it?

forgiveness, mercy love is not a gift given to and for you alone but is a baton for you to give away. A church that is influencing its community is a church that has moved out from being a holy huddle looking inward at itself but is looking outward into the world with the eyes and actions of Jesus. A community committed to passing on the love of God in any and every way they can think of.

The servant in this story saw mercy, forgiveness as a gift – I have received mercy. But then it stopped with him.

You do not own love – it is not yours the mercy you received does not belong to you – you are only a custodian of love for a while but it must be passed on or it ceases to be love.

In a relay race if you don’t pass the baton on then the race is over. More than that if you don’t pass this on and try to keep it just for yourself it is like stale food and starts to go off and rather than being appealing it actually puts people off.

Now please understand I know why we would rather have the present than the baton. Having to give love away is costly – it can cost reputation, it can cost time and effort, yes it can be dangerous but it is in the end what is most fulfilling.

God said to Abraham ‘you are blessed to be a blessing’.

Love cannot be contained. The outgoing love of God is seen in Jesus – Jesus came to lay down his life in love that we might live.

And here is love, not that we loved him but that whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Get this we didn’t even like Jesus and he gave his life his love for us.

Let me give you a warning – if you don’t share Gods love if you don’t pass it on – God will find someone who will. He will find a church who will. And if there is no church he will find someone else to share the love outside of the church.

But if you will take God’s love and run with it –share it – pass it on the you will breathe life and hope into not only your church but your family and your communities.

Jesus says you have freely received so you must freely give.

This love must also be without conditions – I know of churches that say well to be a part of us and to receive the love you must change first. Jesus never said that. Jesus accepted and then believed that the power of God’s love would do the rest.

This video has to one of my favorite church videos ever

I love the tag line “Where Mercy is required”

We cannot have a boarder control at our church doors, not a quota not a visa check.

Most churches should be filled with spiritual undocumented aliens.

When Jesus died on that cross he declared God’s grace love and mercy to all humanity.

Do you know God loved you from before you were born. His love could not have been greater. He didn’t love you and more when you became a Christian he was just thrilled that now you knew that love.

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells the parable of the three lost things – a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. You know none of those things lost their value because they were lost!! From their creation they were valued.

Being found does not increase your value – it doesn’t change the heart of God what it does is reveal to us the value we were always held in.

Let me give you some final texts to encourage you as we finish

Matthew 5:7 New International Version (NIV)

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Luke 6:36 New International Version (NIV)

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

James 2:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

This a text Jesus uses when questioned about his questionable table companions.

Matthew 9:9-13 The Calling of Matthew

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. ’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Let me ask you this, when was the last time, when ever have you been with people where if a picture was shown on Social Media others might be offended?

Let’s ask another question, who have you avoided?

How then can we who are recipients of that love, who know we no longer live under law, who are free and have found our Joy, how can we now withhold that love from others. Let us make a commitment that from here I will take the baton of God’s love and grace and forgiveness, his mercy that he has shown me and pass it on.


[2] My apologies to all my Khmer speakers


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