(click on caret to listen to the sermon)
Series: Mercy Matters
Sermon: Mercy in Our Churches
Text: James 1:22-27; James 2:8-17
Rev. Laura Brewster
Introduction: Last week we considered what it looks like for us as individuals to show mercy to family and friends. Today we consider what it looks like for us as the body of Christ – the church – to show mercy to others.
Called to Show Mercy. The scriptures make it clear that God’s people are to be people who freely offer mercy to the world. In Micah we are counseled us to love mercy. (Micah 6:8). In James we are told, “There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment.” In Matthew we are reminded that Jesus once instructed a group of listeners to “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13).
Hearing the Scriptures Does Not Always Equate to Internalizing the Scriptures. We may have heard what the Bible has to say about having mercy for others, but that doesn’t mean we have taken those messages to heart. The attitudes and actions of committed Christians aren’t actually all that different from those of the regular population. According to a study by the Barna Group, practicing Christians closely resemble the general population when it comes to feeling compassion for others and tangible expressions of that compassion.
Did Early Christians Struggle Too? It may well be that early Christians also dealt with the struggle to internalize and live out the call to show compassion to others as a part of their faith. Certainly, the author of James must have felt that the Christians to whom he wrote needed a fresh reminder regarding what it means to live as an authentic follower of Christ. Read what James had to say in James 1: 22- 27. The broader theme of James and scripture is this: those who bear the name of Christ should live out what was taught to us and offered to us by Christ. Read James 2:8 – 17.
Explicit and Implicit Lessons About Mercy from James. First, the mercy we receive from the Lord is meant to change us. The mercy we receive is meant to soften our hearts and allow us to grow more merciful. Second, showing mercy to those in need in the world in obedience to our Lord can help enliven and safeguard our faith. Third, our showing mercy to those in need in the world is how God chooses to meet the needs of others in this world and transform their lives. When Jesus walked on the earth, his mercy was embodied mercy. That is, the mercy he offered was hands-on, always seeing the people before him, being moved to compassion, reaching out to touch them and providing physical and spiritual relief. Today, the church serves as the body of Christ. Today it falls to us to embody God’s mercy.
Make a Commitment. We have the opportunity to unleash the compassion and mercy of Jesus to a lost and broken world. However, we must commit to this mission. This week, what is one act of mercy and kindness you can offer one person that can make a difference in their life? ______________________
Use this act as a starting point. Working in concert with each other, we – the church – can become a beacon of hope and mercy to a lost and broken world.