Radical Mercy Through Love
See on YouTube https://youtu.be/kHQZtReAjrc
Radical Mercy Through Love
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
In the past I have often preached a sermon attributing to mothers on Mother’s Day. However, I feel called to do something a little bit different this year. The scriptures for this week point to a very important message that I think is one of the most important messages that anyone can hear from God. It is a message of love and mercy. It is about a love that is given though not deserved and a mercy that covers all wrongs. Now the “Christian” answer of course is that it is about salvation through Jesus Christ. However, it is much more than that. It is more about how we ourselves behave as Christ followers. The results I am talking about today are through a real transformation of body and soul.
Acts 7:55-60 recounts the death of Stephen who was the first recorded martyr for the Christian faith. Stephen wasn’t an apostle however he was chosen by the apostles as an able bodied and talented man filled with the holy spirit. His job was to care for the widows and the poor. Because he boldly spoke the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ the leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin stoned him to death. As he was dying, he could see heaven opening to him. What he does next is the most profound act of love and mercy that we see in the book of acts. Instead of expressing pain and hatred he prayed for these people to be forgiven and to not hold this act of violence against them because they could not understand what they were really doing.
This request and repair of Stephen was only possible because of the transforming love he experienced through the Holy Spirit. It is completely unnatural for one to set aside anger or fairness and accept the mistreatment that they are receiving. This is the character of Christ being expressed upon and through Stephen. He prays the exact same prayer that Jesus prayed as he was dying on the Cross. Forgive them for they know not what they are doing. After all was said and over, they laid their cloaks before Saul who had approved of everything that had happened.
Saul was what you call a Radical Pharisee. He took his position and role to the extreme. I would have to say that most radical behaviors are thought of in a negative light. When extremism has a negative effect then you could say that being radical is a bad thing. However, when it consistently has a positive effect then radical is a good thing. For example, Saul and the other Pharisees were so radical in their faith that they believed that they were doing the work of God by killing other Christians. Stephen on the other hand was so radical in his faith that he was willing to forgive his assailants through radical mercy and love. The results of our radical behavior is what decides whether we are in the right or the wrong. If our behavior continues to help and serve others serve the commands of God then we are moving in the right direction of our extreme.
1Peter 2 describes believers as a stone that causes people to stumble. It describes an extreme of total obedience and dependence upon the Lord. Because of this dependence we cause those who reject the Lord to stumble. It is because we stand in the way of their own extreme that rejects the obedience to the word. This is why many extremists in the world such as radical Islamic groups such as ISIS hate Christians. It is why the Roman Emperor Nero hated Christians so much as well and both have tried to kill as many as possible. It is because Christians are like a stone that just stands in the way of the world getting away with whatever it wants.
However, what is the purpose for our radical faith in Christ? Why is it that Christians around the world are willing to stand firm and willing to suffer as Stephen suffered for his faith in Christ and yet willing to forgive his captors? It is because of the vision of the promise. In John 14:1-14 Jesus talks about leaving this world to build a place for us. He talks about his house having many rooms. He is preparing our own special room for us and he will return to take us back with him into his home. Thomas ask Jesus the way to the father. He asks for directions on how to get to the father’s home. Jesus says that he is the way and that no one can come to the father unless they follow him. It is because Jesus and the father are one and if we know and have a relationship with Jesus then we know and have a relationship with the father. Through that relationship we find ourselves to have a radical transformation. A transformation that causes us to love instead of hate, one that causes us to seek peace instead of war, one that gives mercy instead of vengeance.
I believe that we need to be careful with radicalism. The Pharisees were radical for the law and tradition and thought they were acting out of service to the Lord. However, their radical behavior was causing murder and destruction. ISIS and other radical Islamic groups believe that they are doing the right thing and that they are serving their God. However, they will find no mercy, no love, and no peace for their soul while they continue in their ways. Radical extremism is often a negative and bad thing as it generally excludes all others for one’s personal agenda. However, in the correct context it could be a good thing. Radical and extremist love, forgiveness, and mercy sets aside personal agenda and focuses on serving others. Such radical behavior as this brings glory to God and peace to the world. Therefore, I believe it is important to understand what spectrum of our extremism we are on. I believe that there must be some sort of balance and obedience to the Word of God helps us to maintain that balance. However, we must be careful to understand the word as a whole and not take it out of context to one extreme that serves our own desires. We can do that by surrendering all that we are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I believe that we should be showing radical love and mercy to the lost and broken hearted in this world as a mother shows radical love and mercy to her children. Children can often be curious and explore off the path of safety but it is the love and tender care of mothers that often help to bring them back on track. Jesus serves us much like a mother. Jesus is our pathway to peace and salvation. Let us allow him to lead us into radical mercy and love for his lost sheep in the world. I believe that we need to radical with our love if we are to fight against the hatred and fear that has been brought upon the world through sin. What side are you on today? Are you a Stephen or are you a Saul? If you are a Saul right now it is ok because eventually the truth transformed Saul into Paul. I hope that after this pandemic we will see a lot more Stephens and Pauls come out of the wood works.