Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mercy – Not Sacrifice

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” – Matthew 9:10-12

To work for the IRS in Jesus’ day would not have been an honorable job.  In fact, it was highly frowned upon.  These were the lowest of the low, the ones who took more than they should from those that had it, and those that didn’t, and lined their pockets with it.  This made them outcasts to the general public.
To be a Pharisee in Jesus’ day was held at an esteemed level, as these were the religious elite.  Yet it was this group that sought to pass judgment on Jesus himself, asking why He chose to eat with (fellowship with, become friends with) those that they judged as not worthy of God’s word. 
Religion alone will cause you to think higher of yourself than you should, making you feel qualified to judge others.  We see this a lot today.
A relationship with Christ will humble you to the point that you realize you are no better than a tax collector or sinner.    
When Jesus said “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” He was correcting their judgmental hearts.  Granting mercy requires that we love and forgive.  Perhaps the thing being forgiven was not an act towards you, but an act or sin that you find dishonorable.  Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)!  Anyone can offer up a sacrifice to God, but what He desires is not our acts of sacrifice, but our love for one another to be increased.  The commandment above all commandments as Jesus told in Matthew 22:36-40 was to LOVE God with all our heart, mind and soul.  The second greatest was to LOVE our neighbors as ourselves. 
I sometimes think the most misunderstood verse in the Bible is Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-2, which say “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  He speaks of a “measure”, which is an amount.  It is not that you can judge someone because you’ve never committed that sin, but judgment is counted by the quantity of your sins.  Jesus spoke to those gathered to stone the woman found in adultery in John 8:7 and said “He who is WITHOUT SIN among you, let him cast the first stone”.  What He did not say was “He who has never committed adultery, cast the first stone.”  With each judgment spoken, or hidden in the heart, we store up judgment for ourselves.
Be merciful.  Humble yourself.  Don’t judge others as if you were without sin.  This is what God desires.

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