Day 18: Ministry of Mercy

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11

How do you react when someone hurts you? It probably depends. Was it accidental or intentional? Are they sorry or unconcerned? Will they do it again, or are they making sure it won’t happen a second time? As Jesus was ministering to sinners, the way He treated people varied a lot.

Jesus could be very merciful and gentle with some people, especially to the weak, the oppressed, and the repentant. He loved little children, even though his disciples turned them away as “unimportant.” He ate with tax collectors and sinners - people the religious leaders shunned for being too bad to associate with. In John 8, we read the story of a woman who was caught in sin. Instead of condemning her, Jesus simply encouraged her to stop sinning and let her go. He called sinners to repent, but He also reassured them, protected them, and cared for them when no one else would.

At the other end of the spectrum, Jesus could speak harshly and even act violently toward those who were unrepentant, especially when they abused their power to hurt others. You might remember Matthew 21, in which Jesus finds that there are people using God’s Temple to profit off of worshipers. He knocks over tables and chases the scammers out with a whip. It might be hard to picture that Jesus as the same guy who said, “Let the little children come unto me,” but it was! To the religious leaders who flaunted their “holiness” and oppressed others, He could be harsh and confrontational, calling them “whitewashed tombs” and “blind guides.” The first step toward ministering forgiveness to anyone is for them to understand their sin. Before Jesus could help them, He had to show them that looking righteous didn't mean they were good people. He had to show them that they needed Him.

Questions for discussion and reflection

  • Has anyone ever been harsh but truthful with you in order to help you? Has anyone ever been merciful to you when you deserved punishment?
  • Who do you think God would have you show mercy towards?
  • Are you serving in a ministry at North Valley? Check out the opportunities and join a team today!

Dear God, You know everything in our hearts, whether we need gentleness or discipline. Help us accept whatever You give us, and help us know how best to minister to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.