July 19, 2020 Preacher: Steve Heron Series: Undivided: Uniting Charleston Through Gospel-Centered Reconciliation
Passage: Micah 6:8–6:8
- Pastor Steve provided an overview of mercy in the Old and New Testaments. What are some characteristics that stood out to you? How is this sermon shaping your understanding of mercy?
- When we encounter someone who is suffering, why is it our tendency to share information (facts) instead of extending mercy?
- Imagine this scenario: Someone who has suffered from the effects of racism and prejudice walks into our church. How would you want our church family to steward that opportunity? What would you want this individual to experience from our church family?
- Spend some time in prayer and reflection. Reflect on this question: “Where would you spend eternity if God administered justice that was not tempered with mercy? How does reflecting on God’s mercy toward you free you to extend mercy to those who have sinned against you and those who are suffering?
Good morning church, Pastor Steve here. We are getting ready to jump into our second sermon in our undivided series, where we're getting together with over 30 to 40, I think maybe even 50 even churches around the Charleston area to talk about all that we're seeing during this time of racial animosity and strife and anger and distrust and uncertainty and all these sorts of things that we're seeing when it comes to the racial divide that we're seeing in our culture. So we're doing that from The Book of Micah chapter 6.
So if you got a Bible, you can turn to Micah 6, which will be our jumping-off point here this morning, and we're going to be in a variety of places. I'm going to make you work for it a little bit. We will be flipping around the scriptures to take a look at a very particular idea. Just a few words that we're going to look at here this morning to look at the next thing that God requires of us. That's in Micah chapter 6:8. Let me tell you where we've been.
We began in Micah 6 talking about this courtroom scene where God, as a good prosecutor, was presenting evidence in his favor of being a God who has been gracious and redeeming his people and providing for his people and protecting his people all along their journeys out of Egypt and into the promised land. Well, then we looked at a prospective worshipper, that the people during Micah's time were coming to God asking what in the world God wanted. And we have this worshiper ask God these questions: God, what do you want? To burn offerings? Or rams? Or rivers of oil? Or even my firstborn son for the sin of my soul? And that was the question that we looked at last week. And then we looked at Micah 6:8, which is God's response to that worshipper's question. The worshiper considered his relationship with God to be one primarily of performance, rather than responding to the grace and mercy that he had received from God, and what God has done to create and redeem, provide and protect for his people.
So God's answer to this worshipper shows up in Micah 6:8. Here's what Micah 6:8 says:
"He has told you, O man. What is good."
And we talked about God being the standard for us. When we begin to talk about these issues of racial animosity and strife and racism and bias and prejudice and all those things, that we've got to get a clear understanding of who God is and what God says is right and wrong. And what he goes on to say in verse 8 is:
"what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,"
So we looked at that last week. That doing justice had to do with leveraging our position, our power, our influence, for the sake of those who are weaker, have no voice, or who don't have the same opportunities and influence that we may have. So I led you through a list of several "D" words, starting with desire and discovery and discernment and then doing justice.
We talked last week about how we can enter into understanding and asking questions about what it's like for somebody who might not be ethnically the same as us, somebody who might experience life in the United States or in the City of Charleston different than we do. And we ended saying we are called as God's people to do justice and manifest the heart of God in those ways. Well, this week is our next phrase. Look at what it says:
"To do justice and to love kindness."
Now, this is going to be an interesting one because the command here, what God requires of his people, is something about what we love. Now it would be a lot easier if Jesus or God in this passage said, "do justice and do kindness, do bunch of kind things," but it goes deeper than that. What I'm going to show you here this morning is that we're getting closer to the heart of God as it applies to two particular groups of people. So what I'm going to do this morning is take us through an Old Testament passage and several New Testament passages to look at what this word "kindness" really means.
The way God uses the word is going to help us understand how we can apply what he expects from Micah 6:8. So we're going to look at some Old Testament and some New Testament. Then I'm going to talk to you about how we can apply this to two particular groups of people. Alright, let's pray, and we'll jump in here together.
Father in heaven, thanks for your word. I pray even now as we prepare our hearts to hear what you would say to us that you would begin to reveal the areas in our life that need to change and be shaped and to be ordered correctly in such a way that we would live lives that are pleasing to you. That's our heart. And that's our request. We pray fervently for your Spirit to make us the kind of people that walk in the ways that we interact with our family and friends and those in this community that we would be a people to reflect the heart of God toward them, that we would carry forth the message of the gospel and forgiveness and grace in Jesus' name. And we would put on display the character of God in our relationships. So I pray that that's true of us. Would you lead us and guide us here this morning, in Jesus name we pray, amen.
Alright. So, how do you and I love mercy? Let's get into this word a little bit. We're going to dig into a word that is used over 230 times in the Old Testament. It is perhaps one of the most rich descriptions of the character of God when it comes to how he relates to his people. It's the Hebrew word "Hesed" and it's translated a variety of ways in the Old Testament. It's a particular Hebrew word that's translated, "Loyalty" sometimes when it comes to relationships, it's primarily a relational word used relationally when it comes to God and his relationship with men.
If you read Psalm 136, it is that Psalm in the Bible that consistently references the Hesed of God. And there it's translated the "steadfast love" of God. So it's translated kindness as we've seen already. Loyalty when it comes to relationships between men, the relationship between Jonathan and David and the Old Testament was considered to be a Hesed kind of relationship, a loyalty that was found in their mutuality and their relationship with one another. It really stresses the belonging together and the rightness of the relationship that's captured in the idea.
So in 230 places throughout the Old Testament. I thought, "we can't do all of those," so I wanted to pick a text in the Old Testament that really displayed, I think, how we're going to be able to apply this idea. And the place I went to was Exodus 34. So if you're in Micah, turn back to your left to the second book of your Bible and Exodus 34 and let me tell you what's going on there.
The word "Hesed," God is going to use to define particularly his essential nature in dealing with mankind. He's going to use this term to define his character. And God does that in Exodus 34, and it's a very visible representation. It's the passage where Moses asks God to show him God's glory, and God says, "no man can see me and live, but I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand and pass by and proclaim the name of the Lord."
Well, it's that passage that we're going to look at but if you know the book of Exodus, what's happening in the book of Exodus is the nation of Israel has just erected the golden calf, and they've seen Moses coming down the mountain with the with the law of God in his hands, and the people are worshiping the golden calf and my Moses is angry. He breaks the golden calves, and then he comes back up the mountain. God in this conversation with Moses basically tells Moses, "Moses. I'm going to eradicate the people. I'm going to start the whole people over with you." and Moses says "No, God, don't do that. These people you've promised to be faithful to, God. I'm going to intercede on their behalf." And God says, "Okay. I'll give in, I'll send my angel with you." and Moses says something so powerful. He says "God, if your presence doesn't go up with us… don't send us up from here. Don't just send us with your power… because how are we to be distinguished from all the people on Earth If not in our particular relationship with you?"
So Moses comes back up the mountain to get the second set of tablets, and that's where we're going to pick up an Exodus 34:5. Here's what happens, Exodus 34:5,
"The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord."
Here's a moment now in the book of Exodus. God begins in his relationship with Moses telling Moses, when Moses asks him before he was sent to the people of Israel, "who shall I tell the nation of Israel is sending me?" And God tells Moses, "I am that I am."
It's God's self-disclosure telling Moses, "this is what you're to tell the people." Well, by the time you get to Exodus 34, God's not going to say that. He's going to say something different. He's going to proclaim and reveal himself to be a certain kind of God. Now, look at what he says in verse 6
"The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, "the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in Hesed and faithfulness keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the father's on the children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation.."
Now, did you see what God just did? God demonstrated something that's very important for how we understand who God is. He put together mercy, steadfast love, Hesed—a grace-filled covenant kind of love along with justice. And that's the essence of how we understand God when we come to the scriptures. God always holds his attributes in perfect equality at all times. He's not sometimes grace, sometimes mercy, sometimes justice, sometimes omnipotent. He's always all of those things at the same time. Now, why is this passage so important?
This passage is important because God uses this "covenant kind of love" term. He uses this Hesed term to characterize the way he is dealing with the Hebrew Israelite people. Well, why does that matter? Well, look at what Moses asks, because Moses's question after God's self-revelation in proclaiming who he is helps us understand the prayer that Moses asks of God next. Look at verse 8.
"And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the Earth and worshipped, and he said, "if now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us."
God, don't just send your angel, don't send us with your power, but be with us in relationship. Be among your people for it is a stiff-necked people. Why does Moses say that? He says it because Moses recognizes that God is in the midst of a sinful people who are stiff-necked and stubborn and will not obey. And he says "pardon our iniquity and our sin and take us for your inheritance."
What did Moses just pray? Moses prayed that God would maintain relationship with his people in spite of their sinfulness because of Moses's intercession for the people. You see God's character in the intercession. Sinful people maintain a relationship of steadfast and covenant love. Moses is requesting for God to be a merciful and show restraint when it comes to judging the sin of his people, as a result of Moses requesting and Moses asking God to be gracious.
All right, so we begin this study understanding that the mercy and the Hesed, the kindness of God, is a characteristic of who he is when he deals with sinful people.
There's an Old Testament idea. All right. Now we're going to apply this later but keep that in mind. Now, what about the New Testament? Does this idea carry into the New Testament in the way we relate to God? Well, let's answer that question. Let's turn over to Ephesians chapter 2. Paul explains this idea using the two words that typically capture the idea of Hesed. There's a few different words in the Greek that capture this idea, but Paul puts two of the main ones together in one single passage. He does it in Ephesians 2. So let's flip over to Ephesians chapter 2 in your new testament and see what Paul says there.
Now, let's watch how Paul begins talking about the same kind of ideas. You've got an analogous passage here in Ephesians 2 that carries some of the same themes that we saw in Exodus 34:1. Ephesians chapter 2:1:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world. Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.
Now, I would say something similar to what Moses said in Exodus 34. We were a stiff-necked sinful people. Paul takes it further and says you were dead, you had no ability to respond to God in your natural state.
But one of the beauties of Paul's writing are these words of contrast that he puts in place, and they begin here when his idea in Ephesians 2:4 now, like I said, here's your first of the two words that capture this idea of God's covenant, faithful love, mercy, and Hesedic love that he gives to his people to verse 4,
"But God, being rich in mercy"
That speaks to God's heart that's captured later. We'll look at a passage in a minute here in Matthew 18 that talks about an individual having pity, that God is moved in his heart toward sinners.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us. Even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. So that in the coming ages. He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace"
And here's the next word that captures the Hesed idea from your Old Testament. It's this word:
"He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Now, if you've read Ephesians, you know how the rest of the passage goes on, but those two words his "mercy" and his "kindness" capture the relationship that God has with sinners in what he has done for them in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
So you've got two ideas that are working here in Ephesians to the compassion and pity of the heart of God and the action to send Jesus Christ to be who Philippians calls "the propitiation for our sins." The Wrath Bearer. The one who experiences the consequences of the wrath of God at sin. That's who Jesus is for us.
So as we define this idea of loving kindness or Hesed or Mercy, what we're seeing is that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Exodus 34, God maintains relationship with his people because of his hesed love, his steadfast love and kindness toward his people Ephesians chapter 2. God makes us alive together with Christ because he's rich in mercy and sends Jesus so that we don't get what we deserve.
Is that good news? That's a great picture of the Mercy of God that informs how we ought to act. Now, here's your question:
Mercy is contrary to what a person thinks they will receive or deserve. It's clear that the Israelite people did not deserve God to maintain relationship with them. The people that Paul writes to in Ephesus, everyone being sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins, do not deserve to receive the Mercy of God. But we've got to put into practice what God requires of us.
For us to love kindness for us to love mercy. You might be asking, how do we love mercy? And that's our question. How do we so love the truth that God maintains relationship with sinners as a result of his character not our performance that you and I can put this into practice. Do you see how central the gospel message and the character of God are to our own personal sanctification?
You've got to let these work their way into your heart. You've got to let the truth of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for you work its way into your heart so that you dismantle the performance mentality. We saw in Micah 6 that we're all prone to to perform for God rather than to image and model and become conduits of his grace and mercy to others. So as I thought about this, I think this is really important for us because as I think about loving kindness loving mercy and putting these things into practice, I thought of two particular ways that you and I will do this. We're going to do this with two different kinds of people and if we major in one and minor in another we aren't going to get the full breadth of I think what this idea is scripturally, and is as God defines it. So we're going to apply loving kindness or loving mercy or displaying this hesed covenant steadfast love in two different kinds of relationships: with sinners and with sufferers.
So, the first group we've been talking about, sin. Thus far the sin of the Israelites in Exodus 34 and the sin of those who are dead in their trespasses in Ephesians 2. I want to show you one more place because it's going to demonstrate Jesus' teaching. Jesus is going to use two stories to demonstrate loving mercy to sinners and loving mercy to sufferers. Alright, the first place we're going to look–I told you we're going to be turning around the Bible a lot–is Matthew chapter 18. So take where you are from Ephesians and turn over to Matthew chapter 18, and we'll look at that together.
All right, Matthew 18, and we're going to start. This is a story Jesus tells you may have read this before in Matthew 18. It's the parable of the unforgiving servant and Jesus tells this Parable in response to Peter asking Jesus, how far do I have to go to forgive people? There's got to be a limit on the forgiveness that we extend to others. And what Jesus does in response to that question is tell Peter this story Matthew 18:23:
"therefore the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a King who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents."
Now, a talent in that time was a measure of weight that was equal to 20 years wages. So 20 times ten thousand… two hundred thousand years of labor! You get the idea. 18:25:
"and since he could not pay his master ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees imploring him 'have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave this the debt."
That's the same word of God in Ephesians 2 being "rich in Mercy" "out of pity for him."
"The master of that servant released him and forgave the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him he began to choke him saying, 'pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him 'have patience with me and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place."
You know, there is nothing more sad and grievous for a Christian than when unforgiveness and bitterness begin to settle into the deep areas of our heart. Where you begin to operate in life with others in such a way that you fundamentally feel that you are owed, that you are a list keeper, and you keep track of the ways that others have wronged you. And you see kind of in this passage how much emotion there is.
Imagine the anger that would grip your heart to bring you to lay hands on somebody and choke them. Imagine what the other servants are watching and experiencing when this person who has been forgiven so much by this king now begins to react in rage and anger toward those he believes have wronged him and owe him. It causes this emotional upheaval in the light of the community.
And you know, I think the thing that happens is when we begin to remove and we forget because essentially there's two ways to relate In this passage that Jesus will land on. You're either going to relate to people based upon your ideas of what is right, and wrong, and just, or you're going to relate to people based upon what God has done for you. That's that's really the only two ways that this Parable makes sense. I either react in light of the with the king is done to forgive me or I reduce what the king has done for me, ignore it, and forget what it cost the king to free me because–listen–Mercy in this context, mercy in this story, costs the king something. Mercy in this story for the servant cost the servant something. Mercy and kindness in this idea that we're talking about really reckons with the fact that there is true hurt that we are choosing to overlook for the sake of the relationship.
That is what is happening and boy, as I think about this in my own life, this shows up all the time in my parenting. That I think my kids have not reached the standard that I feel they ought to have reached and that when they don't, when they do wrong, I take it personally rather than acting in such a way that I receive and put into play and into practice the forgiveness that I have received from God.
And when we operate in this idea where we think we can release mercy, but only to those who deserve it… we can release mercy, but only to the ones who have been falling off, and we can release mercy but only if they're sad and they're sorry enough. They've made some attempt to get back in my good graces. Then I'll receive mercy… that upends the definition!
That's what we've seen thus far in Exodus 34 and in Ephesians 2—that the nature of God is to extend grace and mercy and forgiveness based upon who he is, not what they have earned. And that's the picture you have in this passage. Now, look at Jesus' point. Here's what the point is: look at verse 32,
"Then the master summoned him and said to him 'you wicked servant. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?'"
Jesus' point is he expects our relationship with God to inform the way we act with others who have wronged us.
Now, let me apply this because when it comes to racial issues, ethnic issues, prejudice issues, hate issues, we have a neighbor next door in Emanuel AME who walked through this journey of experiencing the consequences of hatred and anger and murder against them. And if you read the story of there's a pastor who chronicles his story spiritually as he journeyed through this. He put on display, I think, the point that Jesus is trying to make here in Matthew 18. Reverend Anthony Thompson shares the story about he forgave Dylann Roof for the murder of his wife and he explains that story in terms of how he did it and how God worked through it. You watched people who would experience the horror of racism begin to act in such a way that was totally different in our city. And they put something in place here as a result of their relationship with God in heaven that silenced issues of rioting and anger, and they displayed something that was a model of the heart of God toward people who didn't deserve it, which is the essence of this idea that we're trying to get it right here. That they put on display this community of faith, the Mercy of God in the in the relationship with an individual who did not deserve it.
Now, those are heavy truths that are made lighter as a result of the truth of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. So here's your first one. Here's how mercy shows up in times of us being wronged by others where we navigate relationships where we experience extending mercy as a result of the mercy that we've received from God. So do you see how central the gospel message is? How central the truth of God's grace and mercy he gives to us that informs our relationship with others?
Ok. So there's mercy in light of sinners. You're going to have an opportunity maybe this week, maybe tonight, maybe with a spouse, or a roommate, or a kid, or a co-worker, in some way where you are going to have the command to live mercifully as you have received mercy. But there's another group of people that I think mercy applies to and if we don't make space for mercy being applied to this other group of people, we're going to miss something essential to the ministry of Jesus and to the ministry opportunities that we have as believers in Jesus Christ. And that group of people is sufferers. So, to illustrate that, I want you to turn to Luke 10 flip over to your right, Matthew, Mark, to Luke and take a look at Luke 10. Now, the context of what's happening.
What's happening in Luke chapter 10 is a lawyer who comes to Jesus and asked Jesus the question that's remarkably similar to this worshiper that we saw in Micah 6. Let's take a look at how Jesus does this Luke 10:25.
"Behold, a lawyer stood up and put him to the test saying, 'teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'what is written in the law? How do you read it?' And he answered, 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.' And he said to him, 'you have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.'"
That this lawyer asks and answers the question, "he has shown you, O man. What is good? And what does the Lord require from you?" And he gives the perfect answer. He sums up what Jesus calls later in the book of Matthew "all the law and the prophets" into commands: "love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself." Well done, lawyer. But it goes off the rails for him here when he asks this next question.
"But he, desiring to justify himself,"
Now. This is so central to the same idea we saw in Micah 6:8. You felt the desperation from this worshiper who said, "gosh. What in the world does God require? Doesn't he want all these offerings and sacrifices and even my firstborn son?" And this lawyer now feels that tension that you and I do to the commands of God. "God give me something that I can actually do and check it off."
"He, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "and who is my neighbor?"
That's a really good question for this lawyer because this lawyer's doing something that's almost imperceptible in this question. He's asking "to whom do I owe loving my neighbor as myself, Jesus? If you could give me the people to whom I owe that duty I will do it to them." And what he's also doing is excluding another group of people, right? He wants Jesus to tell him "It's your family. It's a couple people at work. It's definitely your kids, maybe your grandma, but nobody else. There's nobody else you need to do that with."
So this guy's asking, "I want to make sure I get this right. Tell me the people who are in." And, watch this, the people who are out. Now, this is the background to the Good Samaritan story. Watch the story that Jesus tells and what Jesus does here. And this is important as we talk about this series called "undivided" where the gospel transcends these racial and ethnic boundaries, because Jesus is about to tell a story that perhaps gets to the greatest ethnic division of their day–between Jew and Samaritans. Samaritans were conquered, they're essentially half-breeds, they're foreign powers who inhabit the land and intermarry with the jews. They're not considered to be pure jews or pure descendants of Abraham.
So there's this racial, ethnic animosity between Jews and Samaritans. And Jesus leverages that animosity and division for the sake of this Parable. Look at Luke 10:30:
"Jesus replied, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him and departed leaving him half dead."
Now, let me pause here in the story and say something that I think is important when it comes to this loving kindness. Right, loving mercy, this Hesed kind of characteristic of God, we've already said that God in his character steps towards the sinner and Jesus gives us this picture of us operating with people who sinned against us like God operates with sinners. Where God moves toward them in his grace and his mercy, and one of the things that's dangerous for us theologically is that we can encounter situations of suffering and operate in an inappropriate way if we don't understand the character and nature of this full-orbed understanding of God's Hesed steadfast love. Well, Steve. What do you mean? In this passage, in this story that Jesus just told Matthew 18, it's about sins and sins against one another that are meant to be interpreted in light of our sin.
Well, in this passage, this isn't a passage about an individual who has sinned. This is a passage about an individual who has encountered the sinfulness of others imposed upon him where he was just driving on the road and on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he was overwhelmed, overpowered, beaten, stripped, robbed, and left for half dead. If we look at this scenario in our day—and this is the thing that bothers me in the media and social media right now that's happening—is that we see issues of either Injustice or suffering that happens in the life of individuals in a sinful and broken world, where the sin of mankind is laid upon people who are experiencing being the victims of sin being done against them, and we merely begin to explain their suffering in light of sins that they have done. We miss the nature of the heart of God.
Because nobody in this story would say to this man, "Well, you should have never taken a different way home. Well, you should have been carrying a sword. Well, you should have been living your life, that way you shouldn't have been on that road. You were probably in the wrong side of town. You shouldn't have done those things. If you would only live your life different you would have experienced blessing and peace and instead you experience hardship and armed robbery and being left for half-dead. It's probably your fault.
You know, in your Old Testament, There's this book Job. And in the Book of Job it begins with this conversation between God and Satan, and then Job's life. Job is never viewed as a sinner. He's viewed as righteous in the eyes of God and in the eyes of others. And what happens is, Satan oppresses and makes him go through suffering and God allows Satan to go through that. And then you have this center portion of the book from chapter 3 to about chapter 42 where you have all a Job's friends and Job's friends come and they sit with him for about a week and they're quiet and they mourn with them, but then they go on a sin hunt. They start looking for the connection between Job's sin and Job's suffering and they said Job, "you must be going through suffering as a result of your sin."
Now, that wasn't the case for Job. It wasn't the case for Paul, if you look at the life of Paul, and it certainly wasn't the case for Jesus. So this idea that all suffering is a result of bad choices in our life, Jesus displays with this parable, and we see it played out through the variety of scriptural stories and characters we see in the scriptures. So it is foolish to approach people who are in the midst of suffering and give them instruction when they need relief. And that's the point of Jesus' parable. Watch as he goes on, look at verse 31:
"One now by chance a priest was going down that road and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a levite when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side,"
But here's the transition that Jesus gives him.
"a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was and when he saw him he had…" There's that rich in mercy word, "compassion."
He felt something for him. You know, every time this idea of God's Hesed in the Old Testament happens, it's always tied to an action. It's not just, "well, we felt sad" and you go on your merry way. No, it's always tied to an individual acting a certain way as a result of the heart of compassion and pity that he has. Well, that's consistent with this story of what the Samaritan does. He's moved with compassion, but he wasn't just compassionate and walked on.
He was moved to action. Verse 34:
"He went to him and bound up his wounds pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn, and took care of him, and the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying 'take care of him and whatever more you spend I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three,'
Here's your application question, lawyer.
"Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
And here's the answer. The answer that the lawyer gives in verse 37.
"He said, the one who showed him mercy."
Literally, the one who worked mercy.
"And Jesus said to him, you go and do likewise."
So in context, what does it mean to show mercy? It's not to forgive. It's to extend kindness to those who have been taken advantage of in this sinful and broken world. It's to image the heart of God toward those who are not just sinners, but also sufferers, and boy that is my heart for us as a church. That we would be the kind of church that cares about the suffering. Eternal suffering. That is at stake when it comes to our sins that separate us from a holy God. But also that we would be the kind of people that image the heart of God and model the heart of God and are sensitive to those who might go through suffering during in this world, now.
You know, let me be transparent for a minute. I had this week… it's so interesting how God begins to line up events and experiences in my life when I'm preparing a message. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine of at least a decade who's a black brother who I've known and we've journeyed in ministry together for a short time. And I call him, I said just, "how is life going?" I was trying to put in practice some of the things we talked about last week, and he said "brother, life is going really really hard. I've experienced this in burying a brother-in-law and this in burying another friend and as a result of gun violence and I'm experiencing this difficulty and hardship in life. And I'm experiencing all of these comments in social media and people saying racism isn't a problem and there's no prejudice out there and Steve, let me tell you, I am living these things with my family. I'm living the conversations with my kids as we try to explain to them what is going on as we bury their uncle."
And boy, I had tears in my eyes as I had this conversation with him, and I have heard other stories this week past story that just sat on my heart about just brokenness and hardship and things that have affected people and afflicted people in life. And you know, as I begin to process this stuff about how we as a church with a history of ethnic division and stories even in our own history as a church that would give testimony to racism and bias in this city. You know the stories that have happened in our city around these things.
I long for the truth for us as a church to be captured by the goodness of God so much so that we would be the kind of people that wouldn't just do merciful deeds, but the Hesed of God. The steadfast mercy and kindness of God would begin to reform our hearts in such a way that we would care about temporal suffering and hardship. And hat we would care about that people would experience an eternal suffering, that we care enough to give people the gospel message that would secure their right relationship with God for eternity. We want both of these things to be true when it comes to racial issues and ethnic divisions in our city.
I so long for us to be a church that if we have opportunity for people who have experienced the sin and hatred of racism and prejudice, and they walk in the back doors of our church, or our in your workplace, and a you as a believer in Jesus Christ would begin to image the Hesed, the steadfast kindness and love of God to care about suffering.
Eternal suffering, temporal suffering, that we would have the opportunity to be able to be a place where we would weep and lament with those who have experienced the sin and hardship of racism and bias and prejudice and hatred and all of those things as a result of what our relationship with Jesus Christ that we would be sensitive to those things. If perhaps you are going through those D's I gave you last week, and you are discovering conversations and relationships with people who have experienced racism and experience prejudice, that you might weep with those who weep. That you might lament appropriately, that you might move toward those sufferers and begin to model the heart of God, because we don't just want to be a church that does kindness, but that we love kindness that we love restoration. We love the restoring of the relationship between God and sinful humanity as a result of what Jesus has done. And we love the restoring of ethnic division that we lay claim and lay hold to the truth of the book of Ephesians where Paul says that Jesus and his flesh has created one new man. He's torn down hostility and division.
My heart for us as a church is that we would move towards sinners and towards sufferers with the covenant kindness of the God of heaven and earth. So that's my prayer for us. I long for this to be true of us and for us to live as a church in light of these truths. That we would live lives in our families, in our workplace, in our church, and in our city that are pleasing to God.
So that's my prayer as we close, that that would be true of us.
Father in heaven, we pray that the gospel message that we see in Ephesians 2 would be reflected in our relationships. That the kindness of your heart to reach and to be merciful both to sinners and sufferers would be revealed in your people at Citadel Square. Father in heaven, please make that true of us through the power of your spirit. Thank you for the truth of your word that reforms our hearts and minds and causes us to yearn to make these truths visible in the lives and in the relationships with those in our workplace, in our family, in our city, with our neighbors, and with our church. Father, make that true of us, in Jesus' name, Amen.