Parables of Mercy
Friday, 3 June 2022
It’s an extraordinary story in the Bible
. . . a newborn thrown into an open field, naked and helpless, left to die
Yet a Caregiver passing by sees the child and says, “Live!”
. . . the helpless one suddenly becomes the chosen one: unmerited favor.
The Benefactor provides everything imaginable for the young girl
. . . ointments, embroidered dresses, bracelets, necklaces, earrings
She matures, becoming astonishingly beautiful, her fame widespread
. . . blessed to be queen, enthroned by the King’s side.
But the parable takes a tragic turn, as told by the prophet Ezekiel
. . . the chosen one spurns her Lord and all he had done for her
Prostitute she became! offering her naked body to all who pass by
. . . insatiable lust, degrading promiscuity, endless depravity—horrible!
Sadly, the sovereign Lord speaks, “I will deal with you as you deserve
. . . because you have despised my covenant with you”
Unexpectedly, the Benefactor makes an offer, again unmerited favor
. . . “I will make atonement for you and all you have done!”
All heaven erupts in praise: amazing grace!
There’s a comparable parable, as told by the prophet Jesus
. . . a certain son had all he needed, but he asked for more
“Father, I want everything that’s coming to me and I want it now”
. . . out of love and goodwill, the father consented: unmerited favor.
The son promptly set off for a distant place, intent on living in the fast lane
. . . and worldly fun he had, wasting his inheritance on prostitutes—horrible!
At the end of his rope and in desperation, he took a job feeding pigs
. . . eventually realizing, however, they were far better off than he.
But what could he do? He had defiled himself living among Gentiles
. . . to say nothing of slopping swine, and worst of all, his sexual depravity
Feeling no longer worthy to be a son of his father
. . . there was only one thing he could do; prevail on his father’s good graces.
Hesitantly, he made his way back home
. . . amazingly, in the distance he could see his father running toward him
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
. . . “Oh, but you’re still my son, and I take you back”: again unmerited favor.
And heaven erupts in praise once more, amazing grace!
Life Application Questions
Tears of Mercy
A vivid scene: “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (Luke 7:36-37).
She never speaks. Not a single word blots the page. Tears flow—her cheeks wetted with passion. Her hair is dirty, yet over her vocal cords no words flow. Her concern appears to be the dirty feet of Jesus. Why is she crying?
The dirty feet of Jesus? We know he had them; for if he walked the streets of Galilee and Judea his sandals landed where animals wandered. Deep ruts of mud crisscrossed the lanes where hurting-sinful-people lived their lives.
Jesus is never far from sin. He seeks out sin. He seeks out damaged souls. He comes looking and discovering ruined people. She is no exception.
Somewhere at some moment she learned the truth about Jesus. She learned about the tender mercies of God. While the community judged her, Jesus comes for her and all those like her: “A woman [a person]…who lived a sinful life…” (Luke 7:36).
In another town Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Jesus brings tender mercies for all who weep.
Life Application Questions
After reading the entire account, which part of the story told by Jesus seems most important?
Why is it important to understand Jesus eating in the house of a Pharisee?
Why does Jesus tell the story about money and debt being forgiven?
Does the movement from Jesus with dirty feet to forgiveness seem startling?
Peace in Relationships Yields Power in Prayer
Matthew 5:23-26; Mark 11:25; Luke 17:3-5
Wednesday, 1 June 2022
From these texts, we observe that good relationships with fellow believers are a priority to God. Jesus is saying, maintaining horizontal relationships (with people), is critical to maintaining a vertical relationship (with God). If I have an outstanding, unreconciled issue with a person, I need to remedy this prior to anticipating fellowship with God. If I want to have effective communion with God in prayer, my relationships with others need to be open and pure. In Mark 11:24, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Then Jesus moves right into speaking about being in right relationship with others and God. To pray with power, we need to be in right relationship with God.
While we may not perfectly agree with others, it is our responsibility to maintain unity. When we disagree, we must be kind. If we offend, we must go and be reconciled to our brother or sister. We can’t just be terse or curt with one another because they don’t agree with us. And yet, we can’t ignore offenses either, but with humility we must realize our own imperfection. Reconciliation and mediation of differences is necessary when we aren’t obedient to the Scriptures and as Satan seeks to divide us.
In these passages, there are 5 main points:
We easily can build a wall around our hearts to protect from being offended again. Sometimes ignoring a difference is “agreeing to disagree” which can be the solution. We are taught to discuss our differences in a loving manner––openly being vulnerable to our brother or sister in Christ. Harboring a difference for days, weeks, months, or years does not lead to unity in our church and frankly, Jesus is commanding us to do otherwise.
Humbly confronting could sound like this: “Dear friend, when you said this or did this, it really hurt me and I’m asking if we can discuss it. Maybe I misunderstood, or maybe you weren’t aware. But I don’t want to have an attitude toward that situation which includes a less than loving attitude toward you.” This should occur soon after the offense, but certainly before a length of time has passed. The purpose of this rebuke is to restore the relationship and humility is expected. There is no room for revenge.
If we can’t speak from a pure heart at the moment, possibly delaying and writing out our truth to practice it in love before speaking could be more unifying. Maintaining peaceful relationships is a way to be obedient to Jesus’ commands to love God and love others and to pray effectively.
Life Application Questions
How might we model a heart of forgiveness, peace and grace for others to visualize ways promote unity?
How do we know whether one is repentant, when they ask for forgiveness more than once?
Jesus prayed for His disciples to be one, like He and the Father were one. How does a lack of unity impact a local church?
Matthew 5:7, 6:9-15
May 31, 2022
Spiritual DNA includes mercy and forgiveness, they complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. People love to receive forgiveness, but many seem to struggle with aspects of extending mercy and forgiveness. Jesus demonstrated mercy and forgiveness to us and so our DNA as his children should include those aspects as well. What aspects of forgiveness and mercy do you find easy to extend to others? What aspects are difficult for you to implement in your daily life?
DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is found in every living thing. By replicating and passing on their DNA, animals, plants, and microorganisms can impart their characteristics to their offspring. Spiritual DNA is found in the spiritual cells of every Christ follower. Mentors and teachers pass on spiritual DNA as they impart the Christ-like characteristics that the Holy Spirit has imparted to them. I love to listen to Dan Gregory preach. His cadence and caring heart resounds similar to his father, Pastor John Gregory. Who has been part of your spiritual DNA growth? My spiritual DNA needs to include mercy and forgiveness. Read Matthew 5:7, 6:9-15, what was Jesus conveying to his audience about mercy and forgiveness?
I have a natural bent toward certain attitudes. My Daddy saw the world through black and white lenses with no room for gray. He was a strong proponent of justice with very little mercy thrown in. I find that my natural bent leans toward justice and it would be easy for me to leave mercy and forgiveness out of my spiritual equation. Knowing this, I have memorized Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, (this is where my justice wants to jump in and say things like, “if they deserve it”, or I will let God give them what they deserve and I certainly do not have to show them kindness or mercy,”) forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I have some hard work to reshape my natural bent to produce spiritually accurate fruit. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) So how do we forgive a pastor who molests a child? How do we forgive a shooter who takes the lives of schoolchildren and their teachers. What does mercy look like in those horrific offenses against people?
Christ-like forgiveness doesn’t have an exemption clause. Staring into the face of evil, looking into the eyes of a spouse determined to leave the family, facing down a botched medical diagnosis leaves my natural bent wanting to call down God’s wrath and judgement. I want God to make it all “fair”, I want him to stop the bullies’ taunting and the blatant evil choices of mankind. Yet, when Jesus was on the cross, facing death for my sin and the sin of the entire world, He still said, “…Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34) If Jesus forgives in those moments of anguish, how can I not do the same?
May 30, 2022
Are you the kind of person who forgives and forgets? Or can you recount every wrong you've suffered?
Unless you are a hermit, you've been hurt by others, and you've hurt someone else, intentionally or not. We've all been there. The question is, have you asked for forgiveness from those you've offended? Most people choke on their pride and would "rather die" than ask for forgiveness. Because doing so is an admission of guilt and, frankly, many of us see ourselves as guiltless. Of course, sometimes we hurt others without knowing it.
Have you ever been confronted by someone you hurt or to whom you owe a debt? How did YOU respond? How did THEY respond?
The first to apologize is the bravest. . .
When the situation was reversed and someone asked you for forgiveness, what did you say? Did you secretly wish they hadn't asked so you could continue to hold the grudge and wish they would suffer all kinds of difficulty? This is dangerous territory. The impact of unforgiveness can be physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. When it continues, anger, bitterness, and resentment grow in your heart, and so do ulcers in your stomach! It's been said several ways, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” So often the person who offended you has no idea how you feel, and you are carrying both the problem and the solution.
The first to forgive is the strongest. . .
What about Peter's question? Perhaps Jesus' answer includes not just how many times we are to forgive but the secret to true forgiveness. What if the one who hurt you beyond description never asks for your forgiveness? It remains with you to practice vertical forgiveness, a prayer you make to your heavenly Father, forgiving your offender. And if the offender ever asks, you are ready to begin forgiving over and over and over—70 X 70. But who's counting? Actor-Author Robert Brault said, Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.
The first to forget is the happiest![*]
Father, I ask you to teach me forgiveness.
Let my life be abundant in forgiveness to those who
hurt me unknowing.
Let my life be abundant in forgiveness to those who
hurt me knowing.
As you are abundant in your forgiveness towards me,
let me shower that same forgiveness towards those around me.
As you are abundant in your love towards me,
let love roll like a stream that never dries towards those around me.
Father, keeper of my soul, let me live with open hands,
By Rich Obrecht
jbd & gmd
[*] British author Ralph Smart