Note: I wrote this article a few years ago while going through a rough season in life. Please read, especially if you are going through, Restorative Discipleship. I believe it will both convict and empower you.
I know they are out there. There are politicians that champion immoral causes; Hollywood figures who speak blasphemies against God and the church. There are other preachers who preach unbiblical, self-centered messages to multitudes of people, deceiving many , and turning them away from the truth of Christ. Even closer to home, there are church members who live double lives, family members who are physically and emotionally abusive, and coworkers who are literally out to destroy anyone who gets in their way. It doesn’t take long to find any of these men and women. We see them all over social media, the news, in music, movies, and any other forum in the public square. As a Christian and pastor, I am inclined to have very strong opinions about such people. I’ve also in times past, had the willingness to voice my feelings about them very bluntly, in the name of defending the truth.
But, what happens when the truth points its finger at me?
It’s already happened. In the past two years, my character has been held in the light of the truth of God, and has been found inadequate. I have made errors in my own life that has brought consequences that affected my own household and my credibility. In trying to preserve and defend my own self, I have made character calls that when I look back on them, I cringe. Still, I have had the luxury of obscurity. Thankfully, hardly anyone knew who I was. Few have seen me during my process of repentance and deliverance from the corruption that existed in my heart and mind. While I take full responsibility for my actions, mindsets, and out-of-control emotions, I now understand that those errant things were there for reasons that go back further than recent memory.
Sadly, most people reading this are now wondering what I did.
Simply put, the truth pointed its finger at prideful me, and found me sinful and in desperate need of God’s mercy. And with the help of those who turned a blind eye to the blights in my character, His mercy came. Even as I spend time picking up the broken pieces, I now understand that even as a born-again Christian and pastor, I cannot escape the process of humiliation and repentance. When fully embraced, this baptism of shame brings about a glorious induction of humility that produces the blessing of a mercy-shower.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. This great mercy does not only pertain to resolving a misunderstanding. It actually covers and forgives an actual transgression, or multiple transgressions. It’s what God has granted us through Jesus Christ, and it is urgent that we embrace this virtue, now. Our times demand it, and it is not optional. It is a repeated but woefully ignored theme throughout the life of Jesus. Still, the truth remains — if you show mercy, you will receive mercy. Because of this required virtue, I have decided that I will not have a conversation about a “heretic” preacher, “immoral” celebrity or “corrupt” public figure unless I can find at least seven documented “mercy” things about them.
For the same reason, I will not gossip about or critique associates, employers, coworkers, church members, leaders or family members. If I cannot find seven “mercy” things, I’ll withhold judgement and criticism of their actions, no matter what those actions are, or how much pain they may inflict. I will literally take out a piece of paper, and write those seven things. Then, only in the light of the perceived good in them will I make further comment. This decision is modeled after how God judged the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3, and it is exactly how I would want to be treated (see Luke 6:31) should my character be scrutinized. Noting about his is easy, as for some reason, it is much more work to find reasons to show mercy, than in finding reasons for judgement. But God, who is rich in mercy found need to first, acknowledge the mercy things.
To the Church in Ephesus
1″To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2″‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Ephesus: They worked hard. They endured patiently. They had no tolerance for sin and false apostles. They did not grow weary. Finally, they hated the works of the heretic Nicolaitans, who turned the grace of God into a license to conduct abominable religious and sexual immoralities.
Here’s the bad thing about Ephesus: They had left their first love and had essentially backslidden and withdrawn themselves from what they were when they had begun.
To the Church in Smyrna
8″And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9″‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Smyrna: They were going through tough times, as they were very poor. They dealt with false brethren. They were preparing to suffer severe persecution and were admonished to be faithful to death.
Here’s the bad thing about Smyrna: N/A
To the Church in Pergamum
12″And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13″‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Pergamum: They dwelt in a terrible place, where Satan’s throne is (probably an idol to Zeus in the center of the city). They still held fast the name of Jesus, even though the faithful witness Antipas was martyred among them.
Here’s the bad thing about Pergamum: They had some who tolerated the teachings of the Nicolatans. These people were eating food sacrificed to idols, and practicing sexual immorality.
To the Church in Thyatira
18″And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19″‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28And I will give him the morning star. 29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Thyatira: Love. Faith. Service. Patient endurance – and they got better over time!
Here’s the bad thing about Thyatira: They tolerated Jezebel – a false prophet, seducer, and Nicolatian who seduced people into sexual immorality and to eat foods sacrificed to idols.
To the Church in Sardis
1″And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Sardis: Reputation of being alive!
Here the bad thing about Sardis: Their works were not complete before God. Only a few remained who had not soiled their garments – only a few walked with God despite their “alive” reputation.
To the Church in Philadelphia
7″And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8″‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Here’s the mercy thing about Philadelphia: Jesus gave them an open door! They kept His Word and didn’t deny Christ although they had little power. They had patient endurance and were ALREADY CROWNED!
Here’s the bad thing about Philadelphia: They were great! Nothing bad, here! Amazingly, their name means “city of brotherly love.”
To the Church in Laodicea
14″And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15″‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Here’s the mercy thing about Laodicea: There was nothing good to say about them except this: God’s hand was still stretched out to them. Jesus still loved them even though He rebuked them. He stood at their door, knocking and waiting with a promise to eat with them and they, with He, if they opened the door.
Here’s the bad thing about Laodicea: They were impassionate and indifferent about Christ. They were proud and wealthy in things that did not matter to God, and bragged about it!
So, we have in the churches of Asia Minor, sexual immorality, false teaching, false prophets, occult practice, backsliding, unsatisfactory work, and lukewarmness. This was the much-heralded early church. Still, Jesus calls all of them churches – His Church! Yet today, these practices would cause even the meek among us to consider most of these places to be terrible examples of what a Christian church should be – until the truth points its finger at us. We then can repentantly acknowledge our own sinfulness and need for mercy. All of us need it. But, not all of us show it.
The Royal Law
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:8-13, ESV).
We have all been transgressors of the law. But, the Royal Law tells us to love without partiality. You may not have lied, but you did steal. Others may be homosexual, but you may be addicted to heterosexual porn. You may have been faithful to your husband or wife, but slandered someone who thought you were a friend. We must not show partiality by magnifying the sins of others, and undermining and excusing our own sin. According to James 2, there is no mercy for people who do such things.
People have sin in their lives because they have a past. People often have error in their theology, political views, and worldviews for the exact same reason. They have a past that steered them in an erroneous direction, and Satan was at the wheel to assure their demise. Why do we so often attack the passenger, and not the driver? You don’t understand that the homosexual may have had a father who was abusive to his mother, and sexually abusive to him. You may not realize that the liar had been severely punished as a child for telling the truth, and now as adults, they lie because they are afraid to be truthful. The serial adulterer, as evil and hurtful as their actions were may have committed their sin because of some latent emotional need that was never met in their pre-marriage life. Even those wrapped up in pornography may be feeding a need that they have not found in Christ. The false “prosperity” preacher could be a zero to hero type who is trying to prove to the world (or to his late father) that he will amount to something great, even though he was called “loser” and, “stupid” by his preacher dad throughout childhood. While these are just hypothetical examples, they are all too common in real life. Maybe you have your own story. Mercy.
We must first find reasons (I say at least seven) to show mercy before we bring condemnation and judgement to anyone – and I mean anyone. The reason why is because we are mandated to do so, even if we are doing God’s work of justice in the earth. Micah tells us what the Lord requires:
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
Do justice. Please do justice. Fight the fight that must be fought against injustice, especially for the unborn. Fight for those who are persecuted for the faith, lost in their sin, victims of human trafficking, the hungry, the needy, the imprisoned. Please fight. But remember to love mercy. I believe this is the pathway to humility and better service to God. Even those who physically nailed Jesus to the cross in all malice and cruelty were met with His answer of mercy when our Lord in all of His suffering moaned out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What mercy! What beautiful mercy! Shouldn’t we all follow the same example when today’s world attacks Jesus? Shouldn’t we joyfully show the same mercy when we ourselves are attacked for His sake?
…he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:8).
Consider Seven Mercy Things
I never said this was easy, but I do believe it is possible. Whether you agree or disagree with what I am suggesting here, I think we should all try. Before the next heated debate, podcast, blog, or social media post, research the mercy thing in a person – no matter if the subject is about President Trump, President Obama, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Steven Furtick, your coworker, employees, or your boss. Consider seven mercy things. It doesn’t matter what or who you are speaking of. Did a mercy thing exist in Margaret Sanger (that’s a hard one)? Does former President Obama have a mercy thing? He does. What about former President Donald Trump? President Biden? Yes.
If you take an honest look at your life, there are plenty of things a person can condemn in you. You are not a sinless person. None of us are. We all need mercy, and God knows that like the seven churches, we all have mercy things as well as faults. Therefore, let’s abandon our tendency to bring harsh judgements to those people who offend our worldview, agenda, or our own selves. Show mercy to the person, and attack the lying devil behind the offense. That’s right — cry aloud, and spare not. Bring out the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God against all injustice and unrighteousness. The devil gets no mercy. Eradicate the evil. Crush the lie. Destroy the abomination. But bring mercy to the person because there may come a day when the Truth points His finger at you.