We hear this a lot: One TV ad says, “Call today or go online for your free sample. You are under no obligation.” The viewer is enticed to order a free 10-day supply of a magical treatment that will help you lose weight, grow hair, or increase your memory. By calling or going to their web site, you find out they want your credit card number so they can conveniently bill you regularly after your free supply runs out. Of course, you may cancel your subscription at any time. Now, “no obligation” suddenly sounds obligating. [Read more…] about No Obligation
We all want God’s mercy. We all need God’s mercy. Mercy has been described as “God withholding from me what I truly deserve.” In the Bible, mercy is tightly interwoven with other disciplines such as grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. When I read the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 ESV), I have to consider this:
If I expect God to show His mercy toward me, I must express this kind of mercy toward others!
The word “merciful” Jesus uses in this Beatitude means “full of pity, compassionate, acting consistently with God’s covenant.” I find it easier to apply mercy toward those I care about. I find it much more difficult to apply mercy toward someone I don’t like or don’t even know.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 that we are new creatures in Christ. The old person has passed away or died. The new has come. And because He reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, He has commissioned us with the ministry of reconciliation. What should we disciples do with this ministry of reconciliation? Among the New Testament teachings, I found three very important, very difficult aspects of reconciliation:
- Forgive each other the exact same way God forgives us (Matthew 5:14). This is hard. Really hard. God forgives us unconditionally, based completely on His grace. But sometimes, it seems impossible to forgive. It is! Without God, that is. But with God, we can forgive because we have been forgiven. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:12-14 that peace comes to our hearts and we are bound in unity of His Spirit when we forgive. Furthermore, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:23-24 that if you have done wrong to someone, you shouldn’t approach the altar of worship until you have been reconciled through forgiveness. Hard to do? Yes! Impossible? Perhaps, under your own power and strength. But as God forgives you, you are commanded to forgive as you have been forgiven. Rely and trust God to give you the will (desire) and motivation (Spirit) to forgive and receive forgiveness.
- Accept each other the exact same way Jesus accepts us (Romans 15:7). Jesus was often criticized for being a friend of people who were rejected by His culture and society. Many times, the religious leaders led the way for rejection of “sinners”, tax collectors, prostitutes, and those afflicted with diseases associated with impiety.
- Love one another the exact same way Jesus loves us (John 13:34). Jesus commanded His disciples (and us) to love one another, and by doing so, all people will know who His disciples are. Are you identified by your love for others? John also defined what love is in 1 John 3:16: He gave is life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
Being a disciple is hard. In human terms, it is hard to be a disciple. Sometimes it even seems impossible. Our culture offers responses to life that are quite contrary to Jesus’ teaching: 1) Don’t forgive, get even … get ahead, and if you’ve done wrong to someone, deny it or blame someone else; 2) Accept those who are like yourself and those who accept you; and 3) Love yourself above all. In the biblical pattern, we are to: 1) Forgive others unconditionally, and accept responsibility and seek forgiveness when you’ve done wrong; 2) Accept others just the way they are; and 3) Love others unconditionally, even being willing to die for another.