December 26, 2007

Jesus The Merciful

If you were to ask me what my favorite movies were, I would have to put Gladiator in the top five. I've watched it dozens of times and for some reason, no matter how many times I've watched it, I'm intrigued by it.

It could be the storyline – a man of position (a general) who loses everything and yet through his slavery becomes more powerful than the emperor of Rome. It could be the imagery. It could be the blood and gore (always helpful to keep guys interested in movies). It could be a lot of things.

But one thing is for sure. The character played by Joaquin Phoenix (Commodus) is a fascinating character. A man, beset by insecurity and consumed with the opinion of others, searches for the entire movie to determine how he shall be remembered by the people of Rome.

And at one point in the movie, he espouses the virtues of mercy. He fancies himself as Commodus The Merciful and wanders what it would be like if that is the way that history remembered him.

And as I sat at my kitchen table this morning listening to the preaching of God's word and enjoying a peaceful hour, I heard the pastor giving the message reference the Sermon on the Mount and more specifically:

Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy

This amazing conditional statement of Jesus should send shockwaves through us as Christians. For in it, Jesus is saying that we shall receive mercy only to the degree that we extend mercy.

I wrote a couple days ago on the fact that I see grace and mercy as two components of the salvation we receive. Grace being the good we didn't deserve and mercy being spared the bad we did deserve. And as I ponder these things finishing up the year, I wonder to myself: "How merciful am I?"

And how merciful are you?

  • Do we make it a routine practice in our lives to spare others the hurtful and condemning words they deserve?
  • Do we make it a routine practice in our lives to overlook the mis-steps and mistakes that others make realizing the thousands of mistakes we've made that were forgiven at the Cross?
  • Do we make it a routine practice in our lives to withhold our spiritual and emotional judgment on another recognizing how much mercy we've been shown by God?

The answer is no. We tend to be a hateful and spiteful bunch that is full of pride and arrogance. We are quick to point out where others have failed yet give ourselves a pass on our own sin. We are hasty to judge the sins of others while rationalizing or minimizing our own. This is our nature post-fall and we are good at defaulting to our sin nature.

But that is not the example set by Jesus. That is not the nature of a Christian living under the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be merciful as we have be shown mercy. And if you don't think you have been shown mercy, then you either A) Don't know yourself or B) Don't know God

We have all been shown infinite mercy. And unlike the movies, this mercy is real and tangible and not written is nice clean manuscripts. Have we considered all the ways we have been shown mercy? Do we care? And are we thankful for them? Or are we content to be ignorant of the God who loves us?

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