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Mercy: Christ in You
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus says, “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” You know how it is, and you know how it should be. When you hear these words of Jesus as accusation, your first instinct should be to confess, to repent, and to amend your ways. But when you are accused, your first instinct is not to repent; you want to defend and excuse yourself. And your second instinct is to point at someone else and say, “Those words were meant for you. Take care of your own faults before you go pointing out my flaws.” And you do that because the accusation has hit home; it has convicted you, and you want to deflect it as quickly as possible.
The Lord did not make us that way, but that is how we have become. That is how far we’ve fallen. We hear a charge spoken against us and, instead of owning up to it, we quickly turn on someone else and use it against them. Then we don’t look so bad. Then we can stand a little taller, knowing that we’re not as bad as all that. And it looks all so righteous and fair.
But when we do that, we miss the good that our Lord wishes to do in us. We prove that the accusation has rightly been spoken. Pointing to others, criticizing their unrighteousness and unfairness, and charging them with our fault—this does nothing more than reveal that our sin is deeply rooted within us. Turning on others when the Law has been turned on us reveals how little we truly fear the Lord’s Word, how little we truly love what He says. For if we had true fear, love, and trust in God, then we would truly love everything He says, even when it hurts. We would not worry about what others might say about us, because our concern would be for what God says. We would welcome His judgment and discipline, knowing He speaks to enliven our faith. And we would believe that He accuses so that He might pardon, that He judges so that He might have mercy—for His mercy quickly follows His judgment.
That is what the First Commandment is all about: taking God at His Word; confessing our sins, knowing full well that we deserve whatever direction His wrath chooses to take; and at the same time straining to hear His pardon, His word of release, His comforting and soothing absolution.
The key is not to latch on to the accusation so you can accuse others, but to latch on to the mercy and forgiveness that come to you in His Word, in water, in bread and wine, so that you might be the Lord’s mercy to another. The key is to listen for what Jesus has done to you and for you, the Life He has immersed you in, so that He can now live through you. That’s what having the mind of Christ is all about: having His Gospel, His unfair mercy, His love, His compassion, His absolution. This will shape and form how you think and speak and act toward your neighbor. To have the mind of Christ is to have Christ within you, and to be in Christ, so that He is now your breath, your word, you doing, your attitude, your living, your Life.
But having Christ within you means sacrificing the urges and desires to accuse others and lash out again them. Having Christ within you means sacrificing your anger and your need to control. Having Christ within you means sacrificing all that you are and all that you have for the benefit of someone else. Having Christ within you means sacrificing your self: your vanity, your pride, your self-righteousness; it means disciplining your thoughts, your tongue, and your actions.
Jesus tells us, “Your Father is merciful.” Concentrate on those words. They are directed squarely at you: not to indict or condemn, but to encourage, to comfort, to give hope, to enliven, to strengthen and to settle you. Those words mean precisely what they say: God our Father, through His Son Jesus, by the Holy Spirit has mercy on you. In His holy sacraments, our heavenly Father gives you a good, packed down, overflowing measure of His loving-kindness. He restores you to be what you can never be on your own. He creates a clean heart within you, renews His right Spirit within you, replaces your stony hard-heart with His beating, loving heart. He gives you the mind of Christ, and grants you the right, the privilege, and the joy of being a son of God, no different in inheritance than the very Son of God Himself. He has raised you up in your human nature to sit on His heavenly throne—not to condemn, but to be compassionate. His Life now lives in you so that it might also live through you.
Your Father is merciful to you through His Son. And by His Holy Spirit, He extends that mercy to you, and grants you to live His mercy for the sake of all men. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.