Holiness and Mercy
Luke 6:27 ¶ “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Luke 6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:32 ¶ “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
Luke 6:33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
Luke 6:34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Luke 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The final verse of this section, verse 36 has a construct which is found over and over again in the Bible. We find it first in the Old Testament when God says to his people, "Be holy for I your God am holy." (Leviticus 20:26) We continue to find the same construct referred to -- this idea of Be holy…and then here in Luke it is changed to "be merciful." So, what is the connection between mercy and holiness? Evidently that is what Jesus is trying to show us right here in the Sermon on the Mount. He wants us to understand that to be holy, as God is holy means that we are a people filled with mercy. To be filled with mercy means that we love our enemies. This continues the concept that holiness, in a nutshell, is loving God and loving neighbor and loving God is probably easier than the loving neighbor part! That's why Jesus gives us these instructions on what it means to show love of neighbor -- even an enemy!
There is some incredible practical advice in this sermon from Jesus. So often we get hung up on the legalistic aspects of holiness when Jesus brings it right down to the nitty -gritty of every day life. We must allow ourselves to fall so in love with Jesus that we then fall in love with the world that he was willing to die for! Unfortunately we seem to want to be able to pick and choose whom we are to love. We see the beggars on the street and we wonder about their motivation -- and whether they are really in need or not! Should I give them something, or shouldn't I? What would Jesus say? He says it pretty clearly -- "Give to everyone who begs from you." Why? Because you are to do to them as you would want others to do to you. And in this you find holiness -- for you become a reflection of the love and mercy of God to a needy world.
The early Christians were known for their love. They went out into their cities and took seriously the call to holiness. They would go to the edge of town where people threw away their unwanted babies and rescue them -- taking them home and raising them as their own. They did all they could to save the lost. They felt they had no choice for they were living as God's holiness people. And that is the call to us today. If we are going to be God's holy people in this world, we must reach out and love our enemies. We must pray for them and do good to them. Holiness and mercy -- they are two sides of the same coin and it is God's call to you and to me to reach out to a needy world, being the reflection of his holiness in the world.
Lord, please help me to show your mercy today. Amen.