Imitating the Father’s Mercy
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” is a summary statement of Jesus’ famous teaching in the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-23) and indeed would be a good motto for every believer’s life. These words underscore all that Jesus has previously said concerning how we are to treat others—especially those who hate us on account of our faithfulness to Him (v 22).
This should, however, prompt us to ask: what does being merciful actually look like? As our wise and tender Shepherd, Jesus does not leave us to figure out this principle for ourselves. Rather, He gives us specific instructions on what it means to imitate our merciful heavenly Father.
God “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” As His children, we must realize that we are called to demonstrate this same kindness by loving our enemies, returning good for evil, and giving to others without expecting anything in return. Notice Jesus lists no exemptions or get-out clauses here.
Having called us to be vessels of God’s kindness, Jesus then immediately says that we are not to judge others (Luke 6:37). He is not asking us to suspend our critical faculties in our relationships; we have to use our minds to discern between truth and error or good and evil. Likewise Jesus is not teaching that we are to turn a blind eye to sin or refuse to point out errors. Rather, when Jesus commands us not to judge, He is condemning a spirit of self-righteous, self-exalting, hypocritical, harsh judgmentalism—an approach which seeks to highlight the faults of others and always brings with it the flavor of bitterness.
An unkind spirit completely violates Jesus’ exhortation to overflow with mercy towards both friend and enemy. Each of us needs to identify any spirit of judgment we may be harboring, to root it out, and to replace cruelty with kindness and harshness with understanding.
This is how we show to others the kind of mercy that God has shown to us. A (possibly apocryphal) story is told of how, when Queen Elizabeth II was a girl, she and her sister, Margaret, would be told by their mother before they went to a party, “Remember: royal children, royal manners.” Their behavior would not make them members of the royal family, but it would demonstrate their membership in that family.
Christian, you and I are members of the royal family of the universe, with the King of creation as our Father. Be sure that your manners reflect who you are and whose you are. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. 28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Walk in Love
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
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