Mercy – May 2013
Several months ago, the elders were considering how we might “stir up one another to love and good works” and concluded that it would be of some benefit for us to focus our attention in the year ahead on personal and congregational ministries of mercy. My particular responsibility was to develop a sermon series related to the Biblical concept of mercy … and so with Book II of the Psalms now complete, we will turn our attention for the next three months to this important concern – what is mercy? and what does it mean to be merciful, both as individual Christians and as a congregation?
Martyn-Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher, writes: “The most foolish of all Christians are those who dislike doctrine, and decry the importance of theology and teaching. And does not that explain why they fail in practice? You cannot separate these things.” I think he is right, and so if we are to be a congregation that practices mercy, it is essential that we be a congregation that has a solid theology of mercy. One might suggest that this is a bit irrelevant, that the Church today is extremely merciful – that we pour out resources and time and energy to help the needy. And yet, I would suggest a lot of what goes on under the title “mercy ministry” or “service” today would probably be more appropriately identified as “dealing with guilty feelings about having a lot of things” or “busying about doing things for ‘the less fortunate’ that we might have a good feeling about ourselves” or “making our church visible / marketing ourselves to the community.”
Brothers and sisters, I believe the Bible calls us to something a bit more worthwhile than all of that, simply put in the Gospels: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) This “[You] Be … even as your Father is …” statement reflects an important theme in Scripture, i.e., that whatever we do as Christians must always flow from the fact that our Father does things first (and “is” things first) (see Matthew 5:48 and I John 4:19 as examples). We need, therefore, to begin to grasp the Father’s mercy if our own acts of “mercy” are to be, well, acts of mercy and not something else. And so we’ll start our series right there, with the inexhaustible mercy of the Father.
I am excited about this time in the Word together and hopeful that my labors will, by God’s grace, be fruitful, and that we will become a people who love mercy and live mercifully, because we serve the God who is full of mercy.