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The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8

The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8

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By: R. W. Glenn
November 07, 2004
Selected Scriptures

More messages in this series:
By: R. W. Glenn
November 07, 2004
Selected Scriptures

More messages in this series:

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Published by: Redeemer Bible Church/Solid Food Media on Feb 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8 © 2004 by R W Glenn1
Redeemer Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ.
Undeserved Acceptance from Christ 
The Ministry of Mercy, Part Eight
Selected Scriptures
Several times a month the church office receives phone calls from people claiming tobe in need. Women claiming that they have lost their job, that their food stamps have runout, and that therefore they need money for groceries. Men claiming that due tocircumstances beyond their control, they do not have enough money to pay their rent ortheir gas and electric bills. People claiming that if they do not get $500 by such and such adate that they will be out on the street. Others claiming that they suffer from acute allergiesthat do not allow them to hold down jobs or live anywhere that has ever harbored moldspores. I am not making this up. Churches all over the United States are contacted withregularity by those claiming to be in need.And how about in your private life? Have you ever been approached by a man orwoman on the street asking for money for food, or shelter, or cab or bus fare? Sometimesthey tell you their story about how they had lost their job in a factory or at a departmentstore or with a building contractor. And they may even tell you their plans for the future,how your money will help them on the road to economic recovery and financialindependence.Being now in my tenth year of pastoral ministry I have been called or approached bymany individuals seeking help of this kind. Once my colleague and I were at the churchoffice preparing the messages for the Lord’s Day and we got a knock at the door. A mancame to us and asked if he could speak with the Senior Pastor about getting some financialassistance. So the other pastor, who was my senior in pastoral ministry, spent about half-an-hour with this man, listened to his story, and ended up giving him (I think) $100. Beforethe man left, he told the other pastor that he would be in church to worship with us onSunday and he cried in gratitude for the pastor’s generosity.And yet, from the moment I met this man there was something suspicious abouthim. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something just didn’t sit right with me. Well,Sunday came and went and we never heard from this man again. When this happened, Iwas compelled to follow up with Pastor Joe:
Pastor, so-and-so didn’t come to church on Sunday. I knew it! Couldn’tyou tell that he was being disingenuous?”Yeah, I had a feeling he might be conning me.”So why did you give him a hundred bucks?!” I asked.
The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8 © 2004 by R W Glenn2
It’s always better to err on the side of mercy,” he said. It’s better to err onthe side of mercy than to let a truly needy person go.”
Of course, I had no response. In light of what I knew from Scripture about theministry of mercy, I knew that Pastor Joe was right. And this was
I read this fromJonathan Edwards’ sermon on Christian charity: “It is true, when we have opportunity tobecome certainly acquainted with [the circumstances of the poor], it is well to embrace it:and to be influenced in a measure by probability in such cases, is not to be condemned. Yet
it is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that i
Edwards is right to point out that we are wise to research the claims of the needy; wecertainly do not want to be party to sin.However, when for some reason we do not havethe occasion to ascertain precisely the condition of those asking for our help, knowing whatwe do about our responsibility to the poor, the prudent route to take is the one that doesn’taccidentally neglect them.With that said, Id like to take this, our last message on the ministry of mercy toaddress the question of how to decide who is to receive our mercy. In other words, whenwe find ourselves in the place of
the opportunity to become certainly acquainted withthe circumstances of the poor, what should be the criteria that we use for dispersing ourresources? How do we determine who gets what, and in what proportions? Is it ever rightto stop giving aid? Should there be conditions attached to the mercy we offer the poor?Well, let me say that these questions are quite complex; that is, they involve a varietyof factors, many of which intersect. For example, we will find evidence in Scripture that theministry of mercy is to be performed for the benefit of the believer and the unbeliever andthat the ministry of mercy is offered both unconditionally and conditionally. In order tounderstand how these apparently contradictory ideas intersect in the ministry of mercy, it isimportant for us to understand something of the nature of mercy itself.
Understanding Mercy
Turn with me in your Bibles to
Luke 10:30-37
Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leavinghim half dead.
"And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when hesaw him, he passed by on the other side.
"Likewise a Levite also, when he came tothe place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
"But a Samaritan, who was ona journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
and came tohim and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him onhis own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
"On the next dayhe took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him;and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'
"Which of thesethree do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers'
Jonathan Edwards, “Christian Charity: or, The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced,”in
, Vol 2, Sereno E Dwight (Ed) (Banner of Truth, 1997 reprint of the 1834 edition), 172, italics added.
The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8 © 2004 by R W Glenn3
And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus saidto him, "Go and do the same."
In a previous lesson, you will recall that we spent some significant time unpackingthe details of this very important text for the ministry of mercy. Something that we did notaddress in that earlier message is found in v 37. Notice how the expert in the Jewish Lawdescribed the Samaritan’s behavior toward the man in need. He says that the Samaritan
showed mercy toward
the man in the road.Showing mercy, then, is not having a feeling of compassion toward a needy person;though it is clear that this Samaritan was full of compassion toward the battered and brokenman in the road. Showing mercy is what describes the
that the Samaritan took inresponse to seeing a man in such a dreadful condition. Showing mercy is bandagingwounds and pouring oil on them. It is putting an injured man in his own car (
on his ownbeast
) and delivering him to a safe place of shelter. It is taking care of this man all nightlong. And it is offering cash to provide for the man’s need in his absence. This is what itmeans to show mercy.Now, then, we might ask why the Samaritan’s behavior is called “mercy” and notsomething like aid or help or assistance. Well, the answer is
that it is a bad translation.Mercy is an ideal word choice. The English word, which refers to “forbearance andcompassion shown to a powerless person, esp. an offender, or to one who has no claim toreceive kindness; kind and compassionate treatment in a case where severity is merited orexpected,”
 —the word mercy properly conveys the meaning of the Greek underlying it.
Itis the kindness or concern expressed for someone in need. In addition, it is especiallykindness or compassion expressed for a needy person in a case where severity is merited orexpected.In light of Samaritan-Jewish relations of the first century, severity is precisely whatwe would have expected. No Samaritan would help his mortal enemy. So when the lawyerdescribes the Samaritan’s behavior of Jesusstory in terms of showing mercy, he has hit thenail on the head. The Samaritan gave compassionate treatment in a case where severity wasexpected. So then, part of what makes mercy, mercy is that it is offered to those who havenot merited it; neither would they have expected it.It should be kept in mind that this kind of concrete mercy is of a piece with the kindof mercy shown to us in the gospel. Mercy is unmerited kindness and compassion. In thecase of the mercy we offer to others, it comes in the form of the meeting of physical needs;and in the case of the mercy offered to us in the gospel, it comes in the form of eternalsalvation. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done inrighteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing bythe Holy Spirit.” Eph 2:4-7 says,
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