“God of justice, love, and mercy” are the lyrics to a song. And this God seeks to meet our needs. Jesus says in Matthew 15:32, “I have compassion for these people…” He goes on to meet the needs of the people without them even asking, which can suggest that God sees our needs and longs to do something about it.
Yet God is inviting us to a transformative life where we become compassionate people, taking initiative, and becoming responsible self-leading adults. The work of God to meet our needs is sometimes a precursor for us to learn to trust and become responsible citizens, parents, or employees.
Jesus shows us compassion so that we might be compassionate people. That’s why I’m open to border and immigration reform that attends to both the needs of the people longing for a better life, but also done in a responsible way.
It’s also why I encourage employees to take personal and professional responsibility in order to become just, loving, and merciful people. To be compassionate is to meet the needs of those hurting, to restore them to full function, so that they might become compassionate people who serve others as restored, fully functioning people.
Psalm 25 is a great pre-reading text to prepare the reader for Matthew 18. The Psalmist is shaped by God’s great mercy and love and is appealing to God’s goodness from of old. God has a history track, one that is consistent through and through.
One principle to constantly keep in mind when reading the Bible is to remember the big storyline and major themes, especially as it relates to God’s character. For this gospel text, I’m thinking about God’s compassion, justice, and his covenant faithfulness to us.
The Gospel passage is about having a heart of forgiveness, one that mirrors God’s compassion and covenant faithfulness. That’s why it’s somewhat ridiculous that Peter is asking how many times he should forgive someone. I think that’s why Jesus’ response is a bit cheeky. And yet Jesus uses the opportunity to share a story about a forgiving heart.
I’ll confess that I have a hard time forgiving others who continue the same patterns towards me. But God’s covenant faithfulness and mercy call me to be FOR and UNTO them.
In marriage, the goal is to keep our eyes on God’s character so that we might reflect it in our relationship. Too many times, I’ve seen the speck in my spouses eye and am fixated on it. There is no mercy or compassion on my part. I’m right. She’s wrong. Fix it! I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting to be like this. And my wife doesn’t feel any sense of compassion or understanding. She feels a “self-righteous” spouse. And I’m self-righteous mostly when I’m afraid to share my own pain and losses. I turn inward, not showing myself any mercy, and then turn outward with self-anger towards the other. Not a good cycle.
But God’s mercy is tender, compassionate, and just. His anger over sin and brokenness last but a moment. But His love is enduring. We need more imaginative prayer and thought life over His covenant faithfulness to us. It should seep into our words, feelings, and inner movements! The truth that we are the beloved and are called His own melt away my fears and projections, causing me to see God’s covenantal love and faithfulness.