How much would you value a coin that always lands on the side you call? There is such a coin. On the one side is “Justice.” On the other “mercy.” (demonstrate the coin till it is “wrong”…..)
Today’s scripture highlights one truth: MERCY. READ Rom. 11:30-32. Mercy is always found with its companion, justice. Like two sides of the same coin. Something is wrong, there will be consequences: will it be justice, getting what you deserve, or mercy, not getting what you deserve. (I wish I could make this coin work….)
“All Israel will be saved…” I don’t know exactly what that means. I am sure it is not an automatic pass to heaven if you are a Jew because earlier in Rom. 11 the scripture says only a remnant of Israel will be saved… one person compared it to an exaggerated form of speech: “the whole town turned out to watch the baseball game” ~ that just means a lot of people were there... I think “All Israel will be saved” means even though the Jews have rejected Christ, because God is merciful, they all will all be given an opportunity once again to turn back to God ~ so don’t you give up on them. In fact, don’t give up on anybody… anyone who is broken can be fixed by God’s mercy! The truth is I don’t need to know exactly what Paul means by “All Israel will be saved” because the most important fact is that God is merciful. He is a forgiving God that wants to withhold punishment on those that deserve harsh consequences. I hope all Israel will be saved, and I hope all gentiles will accept the Lord as well… every group, every culture, every country… I’m not even giving up on Muslims… Rom. 11:32, NLT: “For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so that he could have mercy on everyone.” Wouldn’t it be great to have the coin always land on the side of “Mercy”?
The Gentiles are saying, Lord, don’t be merciful to the Jews. The Jews are saying, Lord, don’t be merciful to the gentiles, we deserve you more than them…. We are tempted to pick and choose as to who deserves mercy: “that person is too far gone…she isn’t even close…” he uses too many drugs, she does not live like a responsible adult…; ironically, the very nature of mercy is the only people who are eligible to receive mercy are only those that don’t deserve it.///////So if we want the side of mercy to always come up when the coin is tossed….
Everyone has a different story, some are disadvantaged at birth but God will find them, others are blessed but then fall away, your story is different from mine, but God is not willing to let either one of us go… We have both become prisoners of our sins, deserving justice, not deserving God’s love, but God is a God of mercy …
The Roman Church is arrogant with their nose up in the air. They are like a golfer that has just hit a hole in one. He gets his picture in the paper, prizes, filled with pride, having done what few have ever done. And Paul comes along and sizes up the Romans: hmmm… you think you are so great having hit a hole in one, I’ll tell you what, here’s a ball, here’s the club, one shot: DO IT AGAIN.//// Even if you think you have a relationship with God others don’t have…everyone needs the mercy of God.
I thought the bulletin cover was clever: “Only Broken People are Welcome.” And if you don’t think you are broken, read Romans, try to get a hole in one 2 times in a row. The attitude of the church at Rome is that they are NOT broken, but everyone else is.
Mercy: I wish that I could figure out how to make this coin work… God’s mercy is promised to all. I love this story of mercy: "Can I have your boots?" a man in prison.
“My blood began to boil; I could not believe my own eyes, there he was, in a bunk 20 feet from my own. I saw him every morning when I woke up; it was impossible to avoid him during the day, his voice echoed in my mind as I fell asleep at night. The rage came back with the intensity I felt 6 years before, but there was nothing I could do about it. Worst of all, he didn't even recognize me.
I was obsessed with getting even; everyday my anger grew more intense, as I thought about that day 6 years ago when he hit me over the head with a rock and stole $60.00 from me. How I had longed to get revenge on this guy and here we were, not only in the same prison in Connecticut, but in the same dorm room. I was getting out soon. But if I hit him, my parole would be cancelled and I would be transferred to another prison. About a week before I was due to get out he asked: "Can I have your boots when you leave?" I couldn't believe my ears. I thought: "Yeah right, I'd love to give you my boots, but for your face not your feet."
Then something happened that I still don't completely understand. I'm not a religious guy, but a few days before my release I was invited to go to something called Alpha… The volunteers who led this program were really nice, friendly and made me feel welcome….We watched "How to change the world around you." Part of it is about Jesus saying: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." A Brit…was speaking, he said that mercy is giving people what they don't deserve. God does the same for us, we don't deserve mercy but because He loves us He gives us mercy. I knew what I had to do.
When he said: Don't give people what they deserve, give them what they don't deserve. I started thinking about that guy back in the dorm who had mugged and robbed me. Somehow I knew that I had to let go of the rage and quit thinking of ways to get even. At the end of the DVD, we were asked: "Well, what do you think, how did what you heard make you feel?" I spoke up; I told the group all about my anger, my scheming about getting even with the guy. I then said: "I now know what I have to do before I leave, I have to give him my boots."
This message is about the amazing nature of mercy. Mercy really can come up every time when the coin is flipped. Mercy is one of the incredible gifts offered from God, not a random chance, but a standing offer…
Daniel, the prophet, proclaims, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him" (Daniel 9:9). We have rebelled. We deserve judgment. But, mercy prevails and God withholds the punishment called for by our sin. Jeremiah expresses the same idea when he cries out, "The unfailing love of the Lord never ends. By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction" (Lam. 3:22, NLT). By God's mercy He withholds His judgment upon our sin.
Why does Paul write these words to the Church at Rome? God’s mercy is a fact, because his character is unchanging. It’s the people that are judgmental, it’s the Church at Rome that is excluding people who are not like them. Paul is writing these words because he wants them to change the world around them…. The implicit message: as God is merciful to all people regardless of their story, you too show mercy.
I want to share with you a testimony of a woman who was the recipient of mercy. I have her permission. My name is used because she is writing to me, but it’s also about us at SACC, about Seeds of Hope, the Nooksack Christian Fellowship where I used to serve as the pastor, and many other people… Her name: Kelly. She is the recipient of mercy, receiving love which she says she did not deserve. The last time I saw her she came to a family night about three years ago. I remember thinking that night how disappointed I was because it was obvious she was quite active in her addictions, even a dummy like me being able to see the signs of drug abuse. She wanted to go up into the hills to crash somewhere… Bill and Christi drove her. Kelly sent me this note two weeks ago …
"Hello Carl! I really would like to share with you all of the amazing things the Lord has been doing in my life since I saw you last about 2 1/2 years ago now! I have been blessed beyond measure, and continue to be. My son has been home with me for almost 2 years, my daughter anna will be coming to live with me, she will move in this summer, I have a cozy little home in Fairhaven, Ive been clean and sober 2 1/2 years next month, I graduate from BTC in 2 weeks, the list goes on and on. These gifts have all been wonderful and I am soooo greatful for all of them. Its only by Gods grace that Im still here to enjoy them. Truly though, the greatest gifts of all are the ones that cannot be seen...hope, peace, faith, joy, LOVE. I didnt know that in my addiction and lifestyle I had been living that I had lost the ability to love and be loved until it came back one day, suddenly.. it stopped me dead in my tracks walking down the sidewalk back "home" to the mission with a couple months clean and sober and nothing but a backpack full of clothes to my name. I have been a member at First Baptist Church (downtown) for a couple of years now and get to give back to the Lord by serving him through our meal ministry and the privilege of teaching 3rd 4th and 5th grade sunday school once a month. The church family I have there and with envision ministries has always just loved me where i was at, and encouraged and come alongside me. I want to thank you for being such a crucial person in the journey I have taken. I have often throughout the years reflected back to my time at Nooksack Advent and Sumas, and baptism, and you, and Alice Wiggins, and the many others who were Gods hands and feet in loving me and my sister and showing us Gods love. We werent getting that anywhere else. Our connection to the church and people like you was the bright spot of our lives. So, thank you. Also, all of the seeds that were planted all those years ago, although they have taken time, and pain and struggle, and experience to grow--I believe it is all in perfect order and God is using it all for his glory today! As long as I strive to be obedient, He continues to bless me in all that I do,,, abundantly. Well, this only scratches the surface of the miracles that have come and continue to, I stay involved with a 12 step program and get to see some of the most amazing thing happen in peoples lives. Im excited for whats yet to come. … I just felt led to do the best I could to share the short version with you tonight. God bless you…"
Be merciful, because God is merciful. Paul is saying to the Romans be merciful to the Jews, so what if there story is different from yours or they appear to be different people. Paul is saying to the Jews, be merciful to the Gentiles because God is merciful to them, so what if their story is different from yours. Cut other people some slack. Bless them whether you understand them or not, whether they are like you or not. Love them as they are. Love them into the Kingdom. Help them even if it costs you something. the only people who are eligible to receive mercy are only those that don’t deserve it.
One more look at that coin… How do you get it to land on mercy every time? When you flip the coin, it doesn’t matter which side it lands, what matters is the character of your life. Do you regularly practice mercy towards others, or are you judgmental? If you are a person that is judgmental, treating others in the way they deserve, then that is how you will be treated. I’ve noticed in the courts here in Sumas, CPS, the county courthouse, judges tend to judge according to the character of the person…hand the judge your coin, and it doesn’t matter which side they see: If I am a merciful person that lost my head and admit I stole the goods, it makes no difference whether I ask the judge for justice or mercy, the judge will lean on the side of mercy. If I go before the judge as an arrogant, mad, defiant pain in the rear and cry out for mercy, the judge will lean on the side of justice, handing out a sentence as far as the law will allow.
We all need mercy. I like the way Herman Melville says it: “Heaven have mercy on us all…for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.” That’s all we are asking for from God: mend my broken head. And God says I can do that, start by you helping me to mend others. Love people into the Kingdom. Be merciful to those that misspend their money. Make a difference to those that have less than you.
I’ve got a coin with mercy on one side and justice on the other. Be merciful just as God is merciful, and it makes no difference which side the coin lands, God will give you mercy every time. Amen.