On Mercy

by Alexei Laushkin

Mercy is about patience. The patience of God really more than our own. Consider God’s standards of mercy. He patiently waits. Consider these words from 2 Peter 3:8-9:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance

Now consider the words of Jesus in the gospel of Luke. Luke 13:6-9:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.

The profound waiting and mercy of God. He will wait to see if life can come from this tree (us) and this soil (our circumstance). Yes he does discipline, yes he does allow for difficulties, but the overarching character is mercy. Even what he allows and the discipline itself is meant for us to do something else. For us to display some other characteristic than the ones we are so prone to.

Consider 1 Samuel. Salvation and rescue is going to come through Samuel, and the young boy is born to a barren woman. A very minor person. What is happening here? Don’t we see the echoes of the Virgin Mary, or Sarah.

God is searching the earth to see if any have sought after him. And in the anguish of infertility he finds a woman whose heart is open, who is zealous to be used. Though her story seems so small and insignificant, her life would be integral in God’s work of bringing  back his people to himself in the midst of gross infidelity and waywardness.

Consider the Mercy of God

In a few chapters into Samuel, Israel will be defeated, though they had the ark of the covenant in their midst when battling the Philistines. This will be a watershed moment. A moment so shocking that the very identity of the nation will be thrown into question.

And yet, the story we are to follow isn’t the calamity (which is significant to awaken the people), but the broader story of the clearing of corrupt leadership and the establishment of Samuel and eventually of Saul (who would prove unfaithful) and David.

A high-mark of God’s faithfulness and his work among his people is around the corner, and yet the calamities are necessary to make the story and life of David even possible.

The mercy of God isn’t about getting what we want when we want it, it is about seeing the broader story of how God turns wayward hearts back to him. As with Israel so with us. We are wayward in our tendencies and yet God will use the circumstances of life and his goodness to make the possibility of restoration and faithfulness possible again.

His ways are not our ways, nor our his thoughts, our thoughts, but we can be assured just as he was and is faithful to Israel that he will be faithful to his bride the church, and that he will even more like a tender shepherd be with each of us, as he arranges the circumstances of our lives in such a way where faithfulness and holiness, and mercy can take root. For all these stories are ultimately about our dependence on Christ and our seeming inability to see where we need to depend more deeply or see where we have not done so at all.

Alexei Laushkin is Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network,  a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society,  and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own. 

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True Wealth

As a young man and a young Christian I wanted to discern the teachings of the church in regard to wealth. Wealth is a particularly important thing to a young, well-educated, and ambitious young man.

So I had my questions, Jesus wasn’t really against wealth was he? Did God really want me to sell everything and give to the poor? Did I need to take a vow of poverty, forsake retirement and health insurance? Surely there was a place for the American dream in the life of Christianity?

by Frederic Poirot used through flickr creative commons

by Frederic Poirot used through flickr creative commons

I still don’t have all the answers to these questions. What I eventually concluded was something like a Christian version of modesty when it comes to wealth. As long as you weren’t too attached and you gave, you had the right to pursue whatever you wanted.

My views were/are impoverished on a number of levels. I only recently realized that the passages on wealth are often juxtaposed against wealth toward God. Wealth for oneself versus generosity toward God specifically. Not just wealth in terms of money, but wealth in terms of time and commitment. Not just personal prayer and devotion but measured by generosity/attention towards the things of God. The everyday kindnesses, the keeping of commitments, the faithfulness, the kindness, love, and self-control. Or in other words everything pure, noble, true, and right. Not just in vocation but family life and recreation time. God even invades into ME TIME.

With all of life how generous are you towards God? What shapes your day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute? Do you use your own creativity to offer back to God everything under the sun? Are you rich in your generosity with the Father? Is your life filled with the richness of God?

Consider these words from Luke 12:15-21:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Our wealth isn’t ours to use. Our leisure isn’t ours to use. Seek first the kingdom and everything else will be provided. In other words the promise is that everything you truly need and will truly desire will be fulfilled because of or in-spite of the circumstances. True freedom comes from the Father, not from anyone or anything else.

May the Lord cause you to be rich and generous with your time and energies towards those who have placed demands on you today (wife, child, friend, boss, etc).

In everlasting peace,
Alexei