Being a Christian means being merciful. But what does it mean to be merciful? It is now popular to regard mercy as not showing any judgment or disapproval of others’ behaviors. For instance, Pope Francis, the Times Man of the Year, imprecisely stated:
- “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: "Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?" We must always consider the person.”
Most secular commentators embraced the Pope’s comments as an endorsement of homosexuality. They likewise embrace Jesus’ words:
- “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” (Luke 6:36-37).
Well, what does it mean to “be merciful?” Jesus insisted that our mercy should look like the Father’s mercy. Well, what did His mercy look like? First, there has to be an acknowledgment of our need for mercy:
- Then the Lord said to me [the Prophet Jeremiah]… “Go and proclaim these words… ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms [devotion] to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.” (Jer. 3:11-13; NKJV)
God’s mercy towards Israel depended upon Israel’s “acknowledgment” of their sin – a small price to pay for the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord. However, Israel consistently refused:
- “Yet you [Israel] say, ‘Because I am innocent, surely His anger shall turn from me.’ Behold, I [God] will plead My case against you, because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’” (Jer. 2:35; NKJV)
Where there is a refusal to confess sin, there is no mercy. Jesus also reflected this truth in His teachings:
- And if he refuses to hear them [by confessing his sin], tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Mat. 18:17; NKJV)
- If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4; NKJV)
If we are going to be merciful as our Father is merciful, then we will forgive and restore the one who confesses their sin and repents. We will be merciful to those who confess their sin and need for mercy. And if they refuse to confess – what then? We must pray for them and receive them back into fellowship when they are ready. This is mercy! Receiving them back into fellowship without confession and repentance is to wink at sin – something that the Father does not do.
Well, what about Jesus’ teaching that we shouldn’t judge so that we wouldn’t be judged by God? This wasn’t Jesus’ final word. It wasn’t an absolute injunction against judging. Right after this, Jesus explained:
- “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42; NKJV)
If we are blind, we cannot judge. Once we remove the “plank” or blindness from our own eyes, we “will see clearly” enough to perform some spiritual surgery – judging – on others.
“Sweet” Jesus clearly did His share of judging, calling others “hypocrites” and “swine.” What then does mercy look like? It is a matter of giving what people ultimately need. Some require tough love. We all require the exposure of our ugly sins and rationalizations – something that the false prophets neglected to do. God had explained this principle to Jeremiah:
- Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not uncovered your iniquity [exposing your sins], to bring back your captives [taken captive by sin], but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions. (Lament. 2:14; NKJV)
When our sins are exposed, there is hope for confession and mercy:
- “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings. (Jer. 23:21-22; NKJV)
In order to be turned from our evil and to find mercy, we require the rebuke! Meanwhile, Pope Francis stated:
- "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
However, judge we must! Jesus had even warned:
- “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 11:2-5; NKJV)
It is mercy that requires us to likewise judge!