The promises of God are fuel for the soul. I love the history of the bible because it provides context for my faith. Prophecy in Scripture helps me to know what is coming so that I may be prepared in this life before it ends, and before I give a final account for my life to my King. History and prophecy are powerful bookends for the life of faith. For me, God’s promises are what serves to fill the large space between biblical history and biblical prophecy. That large space is where life takes place, and we anchor our lives in the promises of God. Here is one promise that came straight from the mouth of Jesus. It is a promise that does not get a lot of press in these days of abounding individualism, oozing narcissism and unabashed egocentricism. Notwithstanding, it is His promise to us nonetheless:
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:2
Jesus indicates that you and I actually have a part to play in how He evaluates us. This evaluation is not simply that great and final reckoning which we are told of in 2nd Corinthians 5:10, and see detailed further in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15. This measuring of us by God also takes place in this life as we live it out. I am going to go ahead and say it: one motivation for showing others grace, mercy and forgiveness is because we will receive it back from God in that same proportion.
If you are wise, you are quick to acknowledge failure and sin before a holy God. You confess it as soon as that unkind speech was uttered, that unholy thought entertained, or that ungodly action committed. God’s Spirit convicts you of your sin, points you to the merciful Savior and His atoning blood, and calls you to humbly confess where you have transgressed. In those moments, we need the full weight of the blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf. There are no small sins, insignificant rebellions or tolerable transgressions. A holy God cannot categorize our sins into small, medium and large. We need wholesale mercy and grace from Him for all our sin, and we are wise to be humbled in our remembrance of this. Yet after we have cried out so strongly for mercy and forgiveness when we ourselves fail Him, we are not always as swift to offer that same measure of grace to those who have wronged us. We are skilled judges and can pinpoint every infraction committed against us with laser-like speed. As we are swift to expose the wrongs committed by others, we are incredibly reluctant to pour out the mercy and forgiveness upon them – the same mercy and forgiveness that we crave from God when we are found to be the violator. To borrow the words of the Apostle James, “Brethren, these things ought not to be.”
So here is my little secret: I am quick and intentional about forgiving others because that is how I desire God to forgive me. If that does not resonate with you as the best motivation for showing mercy to others, I completely understand. Yet… Jesus taught it so He must have desired us to consider it. I think His counsel in Matthew 7:2 above should motivate us in two ways:
1. His words warn us that if we are judgmental, unforgiving and stingy with grace, we will experience that same criteria as we interact with Him (and others) in the backwash of our own stumbles, failures and sins. He might actually withhold some freedoms and relief from us if we choose not to give mercy as freely as we have received it.
2. His words also motivate us to be like Him: lavish with grace. Go back and read Matthew 7:2. The focus is on the measure of how we judge others. If we are slow to pounce, there can be the same expectation of us not being pounced upon each time we fail. If we are generous with mercy, we should expect the same. This is a promise that motivates us to be like Jesus who washed the feet of Judas and went looking for Peter after Peter denied Him three times. We can be like Jesus in this area of slow judgment and intentional mercy.
The end of the age is described in several places in the bible. In more than one passage of Scripture we learn that, before Jesus comes, that last generation will be marked by heightened self-centeredness and personal offense. Jesus will return to earth in the midst of an offended generation. Offended people are inherently focused on themselves. Kingdom people are focused on Jesus and, therefore, focused on the highest good of others. People in your life need your mercy, your compassion, your patience and your willingness to pursue them unto forgiveness and restoration. I recommend that you go for it.
Jesus pursues you when you need it from Him.