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Love Mercy

• Greg Boyd

*Please note that this message contains content that may not be appropriate for young children.*

In this first message of the Love. Walk. Do. sermon series, Greg tackles the first portion of the prophet Micah’s depiction of what God requires of us – to love mercy. Loving mercy means loving it when people don’t get the negative consequences they deserve. If justice is about collecting a debt, then loving mercy is about hating debt collecting. In a very counter cultural depiction of the Kingdom of God, Greg examines how we can’t truly love mercy until we realize the extent to which we depend on it from God.

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In Micah 6:8 the prophet shares three things that God requires of us. He tells us to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God. In this first message of the series Greg focused on what it means to love mercy. If justice is about collecting a debt or someone getting what they deserve, then a good way to think about mercy is someone not getting what they deserve, or not having to pay the debt they owe. Loving mercy is very countercultural and we aren’t able to do it unless we first start with a truthful picture of our own standing before God.

Greg told a story from a few years ago in which he took his autistic son, who was struggling with depression out to Las Vegas to see some shows and experience the city. As the days progressed, the physical exhaustion of not sleeping well and struggling with back pain, the spiritual weight of visible sin everywhere, and the emotional toll of seeing his son struggle with the effects of his autism brought Greg to a breaking point. In the middle of the night he experienced and encounter with the presence of the Lord that was overwhelming. It started with an intense experience of his unworthiness and realization of the all the sin in his life, past and present. He felt his false self (which feels good about himself by comparison to others) being crushed before God’s presence. His exhaustion had brought him to a place of not being able to support the facade of the false self anymore in that moment. Of course he knew he was sinful and needed forgiveness, but by comparing himself to others he kind of saw how God could love a guy like him. In that moment the truth was laid bare and he realized the only comparison that mattered was to God. the façade died and he came undone realizing how inconceivable it is for God to love someone like him. God did not leave him in that place of exposure, but instead the presence ushered him in to a place of feeling the depth of the mercy God has had on his life and the safety of the Father’s love. God showed him how unnecessary it was to prop himself up on comparison self-esteem when Christ had already given him all he needed in terms of worth, significance, and value.

In reality our capacity to love mercy is directly proportional to understanding of how much mercy we ourselves need. Jesus confronts Simon the Pharisee in Luke 4:7 telling him that “whoever has been forgiven little, will forgive little.” Greg realized that even though he had been very intentional about collapsing judgments towards others, minimizing their sin and maximizing his over the years, he still had some Simon in him. He didn’t think he needed as much forgiveness as the next guy.

Unfortunately in the American culture and church we put great value on having high self-esteem instead of getting our worth and significance from what Jesus has done for us and spoken over us. The idea of sin in our culture, or missing God’s ideal, is quickly becoming irrelevant. Even in the church our awareness of sin is largely centered around pointing out the sins of others. We compare ourselves against standards other than God and thereby feel okay with ourselves on our own merit. The most serious kind of disease (and sin) is the one that makes you feel better for having it. This is the sin of the Pharisees. They were the ones that didn’t know they needed a physician and therefore couldn’t accept what Jesus had to offer.

If ever we think too highly of ourselves we need only to ready through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount starting in Matthew 5. We realize when we come in to the holiness of God our good works and façade are absolutely worthless in making us clean. Ephesians 2 says we were dead in our transgressions destined for destruction. But God is rich in mercy and it is by His grace that we have been saved. This is the unfathomable mercy and undeserved grace that can transform a sinner in to a saint – it doesn’t make sense that God would lavish his love on His enemies. Our call is to genuinely hope that the person we think deserves mercy the least would experience the transforming power of the love of God. In this practice we will become a lover of mercy.

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Topics: Grace, Humility, Kingdom of God

Sermon Series: Love. Walk. Do.


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Focus Scripture:

  • Micah 6:8

    He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

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5 thoughts on “Love Mercy

    Tom McDonough says: Monday April 18, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Bold and courageous words for the emerging kingdom revolution. Thank you Greg!

    Reply
    Melissa says: Tuesday April 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    When I have a chance to listen to sermons, I pray about which church to dial into. God led me straight to this message and it was clearly not an accident. So grateful that your church deliberately challenges culture and what is considered “normal” and accepted. (Still walking out the teaching on the stoicheion, huh? :)) A challenge for sure for me. Trying to figure out the secret to living a life where I am constantly aware of my need for Him while also believing all the grand things He speaks about me. – Watching from Northern Virginia. 🙂

    Reply
    Peter says: Wednesday April 20, 2016 at 9:31 am

    As detailed in the focus scripture, God requires man to ‘act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’, there are in one sense, seemingly contradictions…acting justly…..loving mercy….walking humbly. And as man is made in the image of God, this must also be reflective of His actions.

    Greg’s testimony in the message where he was almost driven to extremes or exhaustion but found in those circumstances the ‘still small voice’, delivered the very message of this scripture, the incisive judgement of his character (similar to the Merton quote made in my previous post, that removed those ‘bandages’, in this case of ‘self-esteem’ that denudes us of our personal ‘glory’…also like the Pharisee and the tax collector at the Temple with the Pharisee saying, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ while the tax collector, ‘would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’…with Jesus saying of the tax collector, ‘I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’…the very outcome, in principle, of the focus scripture).

    Having regard to the aspects of holiness raised by Greg, I must again quote Merton who has a great insight on this matter,

    “In the holiness of God, all extremes meet — infinite mercy and justice, infinite love and endless hatred of sin, infinite power and limitless condescension to the weakness of His creatures. His holiness is the culmination of all His other attributes, His being in its infinite transcendency, His otherness and utter difference from every other being.
    Yet the supreme manifestation of God’s holiness is the death of Christ on the Cross. Here, too, all extremes meet. And here man, who has runaway from God and buried himself in corruption and in death in order not to see the holiness of His face, finds himself confronted, in death itself, with the Redeemer Who is his life.
    We must adore and acknowledge God’s holiness by desiring Him to have mercy on us, and this is the beginning of all justice. To desire Him to be merciful to us is to acknowledge Him as God. To seek His pity when we deserve no pity is to ask Him to be just with a justice so holy that it knows no evil and shows mercy to everyone who does not fly from Him in despair.”

    As indirectly indicated by Merton, if God were not holy then there would be little or no need for Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. But due to His holiness sin must be judged and dealt with in the Cross thus enabling forgiveness and mercy to restore our lives through grace.

    Reply
    Tracy says: Friday April 22, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    It did cross my mind also ( given the events of the few days before) that God was showing Greg what would have been in store for mankind, had it not been for his mercy. Greg Quotes Matt 12.36 as having to give an account for every word. But other sermons he has preached says that God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and he remembers them no more. So… I am a bit confused.If God is not remembering our sins, and the Holy Spirit is not reminding us of sin, then what are we doing giving an account for every word? If someone can help, please jump in as i don’t want this confusion as then I don’t know what God actually thinks about me.

    Reply
    Dave Pritchard says: Saturday April 23, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Tracy,

    I think its important to remember that when Jesus is saying in Matthew 12:36 –

    “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

    He’s addressing the Pharisees who just a few minutes beforehand, had accused him of using the power of ‘Satan’ to cast out demons and heal a man who had been born blind and mute. There ingratitude was simply astonishing and one can definitely sense an air of utter flabbergasting irritation in Jesus’s response – “You brood of Vipers”. He just got through healing a guy unconditionally right in front of their faces and ‘Still’ it’s not enough for them and they’ve got to find something to criticism him about.

    So in that sense, I think he’s perhaps more addressing the Pharisees attitude of legalistic anality where they are hyper-obsessed with keeping ‘The Law’ and holding everyone and everything accountable to them and their system of theology. Sure, I think it’s meant for us as well today but we also have the vantage point of a post-Crucifixion/Resurrection perspective and know that when David declares in Psalm 103 –

    “….as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    He is partially looking forward to that ultimate day of redemption and justification in the future when the Messiah will accomplish this for not only Israel, but the whole world.

    Our ‘Paraclete’ is there for us as that lifeline, that ‘wonderful counselor’ not only reminding us that the price has been paid and the deal is sealed, but also to help us to keep putting forward the mind of Christ when we are faced with temptation – not ‘accusing us’; like the other guy!

    In the fullness of time, will we have to stand before him ‘judgment’ explaining ourselves as the ‘big video screen’ displays our sins before the heavenly host? “Behold look what horrible thing you did on June 6th 1974…..” – Ha! Some interpretations of scripture say “Yes” – you’re either a sheep or a goat and you had damn well better be ready. That’s one very general way of looking at it, but I also think it’s super important to embrace rather a ‘Theology of Hope’ where The Cross & Resurrection are a living and kinetic reality for us in the ‘present continuous tense’, as we look forward to the future fulfillment of his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

    Cheers

    Reply

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