Caring Enough to Care
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
When you build a house, not only is the foundation important but so is building according to code.
Could you imagine building a house only to have it fall apart or not even become livable? What a waste of investment that would be, and how frustrating for the owner and the builder.
That’s why there are inspectors who will come to make sure that everything is done according to code – the wiring, the plumbing and framing, etc.
Tearing Down, Building New
It’s the same with our spiritual house. By now you know that we are looking at the Beatitudes through the unique lens of tearing down the old house so as to make room for a new one on the same spot.
No doubt this particular lens is a little unique. In my readings on the Beatitudes I have not come across the lens of a building torn down and a building raised up as a way to explain the Beatitudes. Most authors tend to state each one as stand alone personal characteristics instead of stringing them together.
Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones’ book, The Studies of the Beatitudes, is the only book I have read that sees the Beatitudes as having cause and effect.
In Jones’ mind the first three were the great self-emptying and the next four the great infilling. That’s how I have always seen these Beatitudes.
In my mind’s eye I have always seen these as the great tearing down, followed by the great building up.
That our old house, that old life, that old self; that crooked old house that was barely standing up under its own weight needed to come down.
Using the Beatitudes as our lens, the focus for the last couple of weeks has been on mourning over the spiritual rot of the old place, and the meekness that it takes to see it dismantled piece by piece until nothing is left except the soil on which it stood.
In that soil – in the soil of our heart - is where we hunger and thirst for a new thing to emerge, a new structure – a house of righteousness - that we are called upon to build using the building materials of mercy, purity and peacemaking.
Any builder will tell you that structures rise and fall because of the foundation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for his reign and rule is like yearning for a rock solid foundation; a foundation of righteousness and of being in a right relationship with God.
That’s the only foundation to have, that which Paul calls “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Eph. 2:20
Meaning that the apostles and prophets brought us the Word of God, brought us the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus saves, almost like workers who bring and assemble forms into which concrete is poured.
They framed it and poured in the rock solid concrete that is Jesus Christ.
In fact, not only is his righteousness a rock solid foundation upon which your house is to be built on, but also Christ himself is the chief cornerstone!
So we build on the foundation!
God’s Building Materials
It is amazing how quickly a house can be built. I find it absolutely fascinating how workers can transform piles of wood, brick and steel into a brand new house, and how quickly it seems to go up with shapes and sizes all varied and different.
Paul, in I Cor. 6, likens us to dwellings in which God’s Spirit dwells.
“Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.” I Cor. 6:19, 20
Just like the homes we live in are all different, so are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. If my life is a dwelling in which the Spirit of God lives, as is your life, then no two dwellings look the same since none of us are identical.
That’s the beauty of God’s handiwork. We are all such different individuals. No two houses will look the same.
Your structure, your life will be different from mine depending on temperament, opportunity, upbringing, inherited character traits etc.
Yet no matter how different we are, we all share the same key ingredients. All of us in whom God’s Spirit dwells share similar key essentials, just like most conventional houses that are built share aspects of steel, wood and stone in them.
Paul talks about using either gold, silver, costly stones or wood, hay or straw as possible building materials:
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” I Cor. 3:12, 13
It’s obvious that if you are going to use wood, hay or straw to build your house that it’s not going to survive the test of time and eternity. Not as it would if you used gold, silver and costly stones.
It’s like saying let’s use paper, mud and bark to build a house – you could build something, I suppose, but it won’t last for 200 years.
So here is what I am suggesting. The gold, silver and costly stones of I Cor. 3 is the mercy, purity and peacemaking of Mth. 6; and that all dwellings of God in which His Spirit lives need to have mercy, purity and peacemaking as their essential building materials.
First Generation Mercy
So how are you doing with mercy, this morning? Are you building in plenty of mercy? Is it one of the prominent raw materials of your life?
When others look at you, do they instinctively see someone who is merciful? That’s the question!
To answer that, you need to know what mercy is. Mercy is no better understood than when experienced first hand.
If you ever have received mercy, then you will be among the most merciful who will walk the earth. It isn’t taught as much as caught!
Mercy doesn’t need huge definitions or great theological exegesis. We know it instinctively as feelings of great compassion toward others that propels us toward deeds of mercy.
It’s the modern social phenomenon of random acts of kindness multiplied a million times over.
You’ve heard of random acts of kindness whereby strangers provide usually anonymous acts of kindness to complete strangers? Like the guy who walked into a Starbucks and paid for all the drinks that day, or the person in the car ahead at a Tim Horton line up paying for the coffee of the person behind them without knowing who they are. These are random acts of kindness.
The idea, of course, is that it would spark a social movement whereby random acts of kindnesses would break out everywhere making this world a little nicer.
While kindness is one thing, mercy is quite another thing. Both are perhaps in the same family, but mercy is kindness on steroids; mercy kicks it up a notch.
If kindness is lifting a finger, then mercy is giving someone your entire hand!
The highest form of mercy is the mercy you and I received from God, which is where mercy begins.
While there may be mercy between people without a hint of God’s mercy, what we may be witnessing is likely the great grandchild act of mercy that was triggered by an original act of God’s mercy somewhere in the past.
Mercy has a way of cascading like a wave. You may be receiving a wave of mercy from someone that is the result of a great surge of God’s mercy many waves back in someone’s life; mercy that is just rippling through the generations.
At the end of the day, the greatest act of mercy was what God did for you. It arose in his heart to be merciful. It is in his nature to be so, and every response he makes is one of mercy.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
And the recipients of God’s mercy tend to be the most merciful.
Yet the ripple effect of mercy doesn’t usually last very long nor go very far. Not because His mercy isn’t great, but because of the human condition that tends to soak up mercy like a sponge with little passed on to the next person.
If you show your children mercy because God has shown you mercy, there is a good chance that they will pass on some of that mercy to others but not in the same way that you experienced God’s mercy.
That’s not a bad thing. It points to the fact that everyone needs to be a first generation recipient of God’s mercy.
I tell you this: If you have been deluged by God’s mercy your whole life will be a life of mercy! Those of us on the receiving end of God’s mercy as he rescued us from our old life can’t help but be instinctively merciful to others.
“One thing that is common to the poor in spirit, the meek, and those who hunger for righteousness is that their life is not self sufficient but looks outward for help. They understand mercy for they know their own inadequacies, dependence, weaknesses and incompleteness. And, when they receive gracious and merciful bounty from the King, they in turn know to show mercy to others.” Alan Ross
That God would look at our old house of rot build on a crooked foundation of self, pride and ego and say to us:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Who were we that we would receive such great mercy? Our house was a house of rot. Nothing good dwelled in us. I don’t need to remind you of what Paul said in Ephesians:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” Eph 2:1-3
This is what we were. This was the kind of rot in our bones. No wonder our house was torn down.
You would think that with the kind of house we had, and the kind of soil it sat in, that we would be banned from ever building something there again; that it would be our version of the infamous Love Canal.
Love Canal became the subject of international attention after it was revealed that the site had formerly been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical. On this very place, over 900 homes were allowed to be built, all of which had to be abandoned.
To this day, Love Canal remains as an empty parcel of land and a warning of what contaminated soil can do.
Not only was our house a house of rot, but our soil was deeply contaminated, which is why what happened next is so incredibly astonishing.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5
He not only cleansed the soil of our heart but also laid in us a strong foundation for something new, when neither should have been our lot.
Which explains why the first thing to rise out of our soil, the very first instinctive thing, is that we show the same mercy shown to us!
That is first generation mercy; where you are absolutely merciful to anyone in need because you yourself have first hand experienced God’s great mercy.
Mercy to All
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s friend, stranger or foe; someone you know, someone you don’t know, or even your enemy. If you have received a deluge of God’s mercy, you can’t help but be merciful.
That leads me the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in closing.
All we see in the Good Samaritan is the one side. We know nothing, but can assume everything, about the deluge of divine mercy this man must have received to do what he did to the stranger in need.
This is first generation mercy at work, friends! For him to instinctively reach out to help the one in need at great inconvenience, cost and risk implies what isn’t stated, namely that he himself had been the recipient of divine mercy.
That is the only way that he would show that kind of mercy.
“People who know more of God’s mercy will be merciful. It is important, then, that people have a good understanding of the grace of God in their own lives. This will come from the experience of confession of sin and thanksgiving for forgiveness--two aspects of the believers walk that often get neglected. Christians some times get to the point of thinking that they deserved the grace they have received, and they become then intolerant of others, even judgmental. The reality of our own spiritual condition and God’s provision must never be forgotten.” Alan Ross
Build Your House of Mercy!
As you build your house, as you live your life, not only must the foundation be deep and solid; but the raw material you are using, no matter the shape of your house, no matter how you finish it, must include mercy!
If you have been shown mercy, you will be merciful!
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