"It's not Just You and Me" (Part Two)
(Continuation from Part One)
Luke 11 (New International Version)
1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”I previously summarized this passage from Luke by suggesting that God wants us to:
2He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”
5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
7“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.’
8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
- BE FORGIVEN
- BECOME VESSELS OF GOD’S LOVE
I suggested that the mercy we show others is part of the blessing of God for us. God means for us to approach His throne with grace. We can behave as if we are forgiven from the start, act like our sins are paid for in full. We can chose to be graceful, full of His grace maybe before we’re even sure of it ourselves. When we show grace and mercy to others, we tie into His purposes, and it opens us to the floodgates of His love, such that our anger and resentments can be washed away like our sins.
This week we continue with Luke, and talk about yielding to God, and how we can become vessels of God’s love.
Last week I talked about losing my temper. I said that the “blowing a gasket” kind of leadership style might be admired by some, it is rarely appreciated by the targets of wrath, especially those who suffer collateral damage. I do consider this a shortcoming.
I have been powerfully convicted of another shortcoming, and I think it relates to this whole notion of mercy and grace.
When my daughters were little, I had a hard time with dealing with infants and small children. I had a “family inheritance” that included the notion that kids had best conform to the family norms, that parents had their own time and space, that there were times for us all to be together, but other times “better seen than heard.” I had a hard time with crying, but more than that I wanted more control over my children than was probably healthy, for them or me.
I remember coming to grips with my sin in this area when one time, alone with my eldest when she was in the crib, she had been crying and crying and crying, I was exhausted, and had tried everything. I remember finally holding her in the crib and yelling at her to stop crying. Need less to say, it didn’t work, but I somehow then saw myself, and didn’t like what I saw.
I put a lot of time and effort into growing as a parent, learning what my buttons are, finding constructive and loving ways to discipline and correct my children. I’ve never struck them, and never felt I needed to, to properly discipline them. And we’ve been blessed by the results.
But with the stress of deployment, and maybe my youngest reawakening some of my earlier “fault-lines,” I found myself spending the months before and during mobilization training losing my temper a lot. Too much noise, too much activity, to much playfulness or even too much desire for attention – I snapped at him a lot, and I was confronted with the effect my shortness and impatience and intolerance were having on my son. I grieved at how uncomfortable I made him during those precious times before I deployed.
In the weeks since I came to Iraq, my wife shares that, while my son misses me terribly, wants nothing more than for me to come home as soon as possible, he also feels a lot less stressed, like he can be himself without worrying about whether I’ll snap at him. He can now be playful with his Mom, just be a 9 year old kid, be himself. I am glad for that, but regret that I did such a poor job of modeling mercy for my son.
But I can be forgiven. Forgiveness is our inheritance in Christ, because we believe. Forgiveness is mercy, the same kind of mercy I want to show to my son.
Why does God care if we forgive? It’s about mercy.
God wants us to forgive others not just so we can be forgiven by Him, but because He wants us to be merciful.
Merciful to each other. Show grace to one another. Turn the other cheek grace. Turn the other cheek mercy (Luke 6:36-38):
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Being merciful helps us to grow more like Christ, as He works to grow us in our Christian walk. There is a dynamic that God has presented us with in His word, in the person of Jesus, and it’s a dynamic that can work for us or against us. Showing mercy draws us closer, judging pushes us further away.
James warns us (James 2:13):
13For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.Does it mean that we let ourselves be abused, over and over, by the same people who we forgive, only to have them transgress again? By no means. Just as we don’t want to continue sinning because we are covered by grace, we don’t want to enable that for others either. (That, and we’re allowed to protect ourselves from recurring harm once we know the danger.)
But we do give people an opportunity to make amends, to admit wrong, to accept consequences, and THEN we can be reconciled through God’s example of grace.
He wants to use us in His purposes, and our example of showing mercy and grace when we wrong each other, He allows us to be the center of His will and purpose.
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)God speaks of a way in which we can approach others. God wants us to show others the grace He wants so much to show to us.
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.It isn’t some test, He doesn’t take back a single Word He’s said. It’s about mercy, and He wants us to receive it and share it with others. It is how we yield.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, 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.”
We are often in service, in service to others, or to something greater than ourselves. And there are ways that service is visible or demonstrated.
In today’s Iraq, those brave citizens who defied the violent, came out and voted, they served their fellow citizens, and the generations who will follow after. He they proudly held their purple fingers aloft, the sign that they had been brave, in service to their country.
God looks for that service from us. The most visible sign of our service to Him is how we show mercy to each other.
It’s vital that we notice how Jesus transitions from His instructions in how to pray, to forgiving and showing mercy to others, to then how to be a part of His purposes in spreading this gospel of mercy and forgiveness. From our opening scripture in Luke:
5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’We need to be bold. We shouldn’t hesitate to step out of our comfort zones, even if that means waking our neighbors up in the middle of the night. This is quite a witness He calls us to be. By taking that step, we make others around us know that there are other needs unmet, and we bring these needs to their attention in the very act of seeking their help in meeting those needs for a friend or a brother. And Jesus describes what will be the result:
7“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.Our boldness in mercy helps others to be merciful as well. We “pay it forward,” in the phrase of a popular movie. By allowing ourselves to be vessels of God’s love, we are part of His message, part of His purpose, we are joining Him at His work around us. We may start a fire of benevolence and care for others that can transform a workplace, a community, even a nation.
A very wise little man said, “The Word is our shelter.”
From Paul’s letter to Colossians:
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.As we are called to His peace, may we dwell in His peace forever.