While I may be trying my hardest to give my children a well stocked “tool belt” for the situations they face daily, of choices they can make and ways to be flexible, I still find that I am a very literal person. I do not always agree with other people’s rules, but I like when environments are very structured. If someone is expressing a difficulty, I have to tell the inner, solution-finding voice to shush. If rules are not followed, consequences usually will. The concept of delayed justice is so frustrating sometimes. As an adult, I’ve learned to temper my reactions. To somehow hold them in, at least until I get home. Hence, the reason I’m trying to teach my children early on.
It was not until a few years ago, when some very difficult family situations escalated, that I realized something. If I lived during the time of Jesus, I believe that I probably would have been a Pharisee. In the different accounts they are always bringing the ones found in public sin to Jesus. Almost in a taunting way. Like, as if to say, “I dare you! We know the rules. What are you going to do about this one, Jesus?!” When He confronted them, they would walk away, for a time. Only to scheme up more ways to trap Him; it was always their plan to devise his demise.
The most dangerous issue with the Pharisees and other teachers of the law, is that they believed they were good. They were completely blinded to their need of salvation by their deeply rooted pride. In their attempt to lift themselves higher, they were sinking. People were being transformed and forgiven. Lame people were walking; mute were shouting. All the while, the teachers were further away from righteousness than they ever knew was possible.
Don’t misunderstand me. Structure is a healthy thing; without consequences we would never learn. We love and serve a God of organization and law. But at the core of those things is His heart. The laws of His holiness never take the place of the kindness of His heart.
Our outward behavior may appear worthy of praise while our heart is wasting away. The law was never intended to save our souls. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior. Behavior is to be a picture of the transformation that is taking place in the heart.
We are given a deeper understanding of this in the book of Jude, verse 23. He reminds us, “have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire; to show others mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” We are instructed twice, in one verse, to have mercy. It never says anything about bringing our pointer fingers out in confrontation. Yes, we are to hate even the garment of sin. But, just as Jesus came and poured out His mercy to a fallen world, we are to offer the same mercy to those who doubt and sin.
The law was intended to keep behavior accountable. Jesus came to save the soul. His heart is kind.
Extending mercy to someone means that you make a conscious choice to withhold judgment that they deserve. It never says that the person is not without fault. The reality of their choices are very much there; it is the judgment that has been lifted. When we choose to show someone mercy, we are really acknowledging that only God the Father is allowed to be the judge. Our submission to His rule flows out of our hearts in the form of mercy to others.
As the Lord has shown me my tendencies in this area, I am learning to release my need for justice to Him. As we release these things to the Father, He extends His mercy to us. It is really His mercy all along that I have to give to others.
Why is it even important?
So that we may be presented blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (vs. 24). Oh Heavenly Father, may it be so.