Mercy Before Judgment

Good Samaritan

Luke 6:36-37 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”

The general attitude God wants us to have towards others– and that means everyone, whether they are nice to us or not– is to be merciful. If we aren’t sure what that means for us, practically speaking, Jesus points us to the way that our heavenly Father treats people, because he is merciful.

Consider the way that God treats people we know don’t even believe in him. Former U.S.  Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes that faith in God is more dangerous than terrorism. Bill Nye the Science Guy says that his faith in science is like a religion for him. Has God struck them dead for their lack of faith? Obviously not. Does he make them suffer worse than all believers for actively contradicting him? These men have enjoyed greater popularity, greater power, and greater wealth than most Christians I know. “Merciful” almost seems like an understatement. Our heavenly Father doesn’t merely tolerate the existence of people like these. He has given them earthly blessings that sometimes exceed those of most others.

Consider how our Father has treated each of us. Every day we give him reason to say, “That’s it. I am sick and tired of putting up with these people. We are going to end this right here.” Don’t we? We, who have been shown such patience and mercy, get irritated with people who are just doing their job behind the cash register. The slow driver up ahead may not own the road more than you do, but he doesn’t own it less, and you are probably the one who is going over the speed limit. So much for loving your neighbor as yourself. We are rarely content with what we have, and never mind that we are critical of others. In our hearts we are critical of God for not catering more to our Champaign tastes and our insatiable desires. Money, health, relationships– we are as inclined to blame God as to trust him. So much for loving God.

So what does he do? Note that he does not excuse such behavior. He doesn’t say, “That’s okay,” or look the other way. He does not refrain from pointing such things out. He is not shy about calling us sinners. He is not too polite to say, “That was really horrible. That makes me mad. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Only people who read the Bible with blinders on can miss this.

But he hasn’t stopped feeding us, has he? He hasn’t cut us off and stopped having anything to do with us. In fact, he has pursued us all the more. Your Father is merciful. He has said, “I will do even more for them. I will give up my Son for them. I will sacrifice his life for their sins. I will forgive them. I will keep sending them my word. I will preach to them my love. I will give them my Spirit. I will bring them to faith. I will listen to their prayers. I will help them in their troubles. I will give them eternal life. I will show them mercy.” And he does. Our Father makes good on all his promises because he is merciful.

So what does this have to do with the subject of judging? It establishes the attitude with which we approach the actions of other people doesn’t it? God’s mercy to us doesn’t just serve as an example for us to follow. How can you believe all those things about God’s mercy to you and not be changed by it? You can’t. Remembering God’s promises, his gospel promises, to us moves us to mercy and love. It is with mercy and love (not necessarily approval!) that we regard the behavior of others. There is a Christian kind of judging that flows from mercy and love. But do not judge to attack them. Do not judge to hate them. Do not judge to ridicule them, drive them away, and end all possibility of a reconciliation. That kind of judging polarizes people as enemies. It makes kindness and love nearly impossible. Your Father has been merciful to you. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

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