The Measurement of Mercy; Luke 6
Pastor Terry Inman
One of the greatest gifts you can give some one is forgiveness. It’s also a wonderful gift to receive. Jesus said, Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6.37-38 (NIV)
You’ve probably heard this quoted often as an encouragement to give. But this passage is more about giving mercy than money. So today I want to talk about The Measurement of Mercy--how to hand out oversized helpings of compassion, forgiveness, kindness and generosity.
Why because we will get it back, by the boatloads! How many of you know we need a lot of mercy? Well let’s talk about giving it away.
Someone forwarded me this recent facebook quote by Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding. “When my need to appear right is greater than my desire to display God’s love, I will inevitably treat people with judgment, disrespect and harshness.”
Following a confrontation with some Pharisees, Jesus prefaced his statement on forgiveness with a prohibition on judgment. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.” Luke 6.37-38 (NIV)
Just as mercy is reciprocal so is judgment. What you give you get. “To judge” is to prosecute, convict and sentence someone in your mind. One of the primary expressions of judgment here in the ancient Greek text is to distinguish or make a premature decision without real evidence.
Prejudice is pre-justice based on our perception. Forgiveness is pre-mercy. Now we appropriately make judgments about things all the time. We distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong. This is spiritual discernment. It is healthy. It becomes toxic when we take the next step. Jesus clarifies this here as condemnation. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. This simply means to pronounce someone else guilty.
Mary’s father, Pastor Roy Blakeley used to say, be hard on yourself and easy on everyone else. The expressions Jesus uses here are antonyms. Don’t declare someone guilty declare them pardoned. The word “forgive” means to “free fully”, to let it go--to let it die--to release someone from your judgment--cut them loose and set them free. When we forgive we free our selves. So we probably have to make some kind of judgment or decision before we can give mercy. That’s why James says, “mercy triumphs or trumps judgment.” (James 2.13 NIV) No matter what we think we extend mercy. So lets be very stingy with our judgments and very generous with mercy!
Jesus makes this radical statement in the middle of some challenging encounters with some Pharisees. The were religious lawyers of the day. It was the responsibility of the Pharisees to interpret and apply religious law. They applied the law to every possible scenario and detail of life. They had hundreds of laws just on keeping or observing the Sabbath. Luke 6 begins a standoff with Jesus who they accuse of Sabbath breaking. He and his disciples were going though some fields on the Sabbath helping themselves to some ears of corn. According to the Pharisees any harvesting was considered to be work on the Sabbath.
Jesus reminded them of King David’s transgression. He and his companions were hungry so they ate the sacred bread in the temple that was reserved for the priests. Then Jesus declared, “the Son of man is also the Lord of the Sabbath”. David was King, Jesus is Lord---His authority to give mercy takes precedence over mans ceremonial laws and judgments. On another Sabbath the Pharisees were on Jesus again about his violations. He was in the Synagogue teaching when he encountered a man with a deformed hand. It was okay to teach on the Sabbath but healing was not okay. Sound familiar? Teaching the ceremonial law was kosher, but relieving human suffering was not.
One of the gospel accounts says, Jesus knew their thoughts, (their judgments) and he got angry and told the man to stand and stretch out his hand. He was healed on the Sabbath right in their face.
Now that’s a constructive use of anger! He made his point and a man was healed. Jesus rebutted their judgment with this question. I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil--to save life, or to destroy it? (Luke 6.9 NIV)
Jesus implies in this double question that if any illness is left unattended when healing can be provided, evil is done by default. Jesus is not breaking the Sabbath; he is using it to do good to a human being in need.
Mercy triumphs over judgment! From there, Jesus spends the night in prayer. Then selects the twelve disciples as apostles. They went near the sea-shore where he healed diseases and cast out demons. It was here that he also taught what is called the Sermon on the Mount. It includes the beatitude, “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”.
He then lays out some radical teaching on what it means to show mercy. He tells us to love (agape) our perceived enemies and do good to people we think hate us. We are to bless when we are cursed and pray for people who mistreat us. We are to turn the other cheek, and consider our stolen jacket a gift to someone that needed it. (Luke 6.27-29 NIV)
This all ends with the golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6.31 NIV) Jesus not only loved his enemies and prayed for them, he also died for them. This is extremely generous mercy! Jesus continues this dialog right up to this declaration we are calling “The measurement of mercy”. He says if we only love the people that love us back we haven’t done anything that sinners can’t do. If were only good to good people, what good is it? Sinners do that also. Sinners even loan money to each other without expecting to get it back.
Here’s how Jesus measures out mercy, ‘But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.35-36 NIV)
To be called a “son of someone” was an expression similar to “like father like son”. If we are God’s sons and daughters we will be extremely generous with our mercy. We will measure it out copiously!
Can you think of an enemy right now? Someone you perceive to be a rival or an antagonist--someone that it would be easier to pass judgment on than show radical mercy to. They may be your competitors. They may be someone who has done you much harm.
How could you triumph, how could you win with mercy over judgment. This is the context for Jesus comments on The Measurement of Mercy.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6.37-38 (NIV)
Judging is the opposite of giving it is taking. It is taking away a persons value. We can and should make judgments about sin. Some things are unhealthy and harmful they are sinful but they don’t make the sinner invaluable. Everyone is valuable and redeemable to God. Why would he send his own son to die for all humanity if we were not all valuable?
Don’t pre-judge or pre-condemn—forgive—pre-give. Give loads of mercy and it comes back as loads of mercy. To forgive we have to give, we have to stretch, we have to give in, we have to giveaway our judgments and expectations. We have to leave the returns to God.
What judgments are you willing to donate to a good cause. What are you willing to let go of. Who do you need to forgive? This message was prompted by something a Pastor, a close friend of mine, shared with me recently. He has a staff member who caused a lot of division in the church. He made repeated attempts to bring correction and reconciliation. Finally he had to release him from staff. The associate had a following and took several families with him and started up a church right down the street. My Pastor friend was deeply wounded and hurting for the church. This situation brought great injury.
Recently he saw a new web site for his competition---the new church start-up down the street. He could again feel his pain and offense has he viewed it. In the corner there was a big GIVE button for people to make contributions. At that moment the Lord reminded him of this passage. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. In the middle of his pain he hit the button and gave a sacrificial contribution to this ministry. He said, the grace of God just rolled over me and gave me a release and a new peace. He was finally able to let it go! Forgiveness frees us! Mercy triumphs over judgment!What measure will we use to give mercy? Let me give a very relevant example.
There’s no question in my mind that homosexual practices are not God’s intention for humanity. Because of my understanding of scripture I cannot embrace homosexual marriage. How do we merge truth and love? I should go out of my way to be merciful to people not walking in truth. I should find ways to love, give, forgive and demonstrate radical mercy.
The church is viewed in our culture as judgmental and condemning. Satan is working over time to paint the church as harsh and hypocritical. It is time for us to look and act like our Father who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. It is time to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful!
Here’s what the measurement of mercy really looks like...
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3.4 NIV)
Jesus pours out his unlimited mercy on us. What size will we choose? Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.