A thought from my daily Bible reading
How do you respond to people who think you are doing something wrong, even if you feel like it is perfectly OK to it?
Especially if that person or persons are in a position of authority or leadership, it can be challenging if you are condemned for doing what you feel is right to do.
At times like these, Jesus’ example in Matthew 12 is useful. Here is the situation—the disciples were traveling along, it was the Sabbath, and being hungry they ate some of the grain in the fields. Ever ready to pounce, the Pharisees who were watching accused them of breaking the Sabbath.
Jesus replied by saying “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent?” Matt. 12:3-5.
The point of the passage—mercy is the appropriate response in the face of human need
What is important here isn’t the specific laws they were debating, but how Jesus responded with the repeated question, “Haven’t you read?”
They had the scriptures that taught them how God wanted them to live. The baseline for their (and our) evaluation of any action or decision should always be, what does the Bible (our Scriptures) say? We need to know the content of it well, so when situations arise, we can look at them and ask what actions God approved of and what did He condemn.
We need to know the Bible well enough that we don’t just look at one passage, perhaps the stating of a specific law, in this case, the command to rest on the Sabbath, but to go beyond it, to see the examples of how it was applied in other parts of the narrative sections of scripture. Jesus did that with his challenge to the critics to look beyond the letter of the law and to see God’s mercy in it when a human need was the overwhelming issue. He summarizes what they should have learned from these passages by saying,
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’(quoting Hosea 6:6) you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12: 7-8
Two points are important here. First, Jesus refers to himself as “Lord of the Sabbath”, and second the use of the quote from Hosea qualifies the kind of Lord that He is—a Lord of mercy and great, self-sacrificing love. The God who has the power and authority overall, is a God who chooses to above all act in mercy.
Application comments on showing mercy
It is always easier to bash people with the letter of the law in many areas of life. Yes, everyone should have a job, work hard, be a good family member, give at church, etc. In addition to judging other people regardless of if we have any idea why their actions are what they are, we beat up on ourselves because we don’t always obey God, work as hard as we should, and do all the volunteer work that needs to be done.
What should we do when confronted with behavior in others, or ourselves that we feel doesn’t measure up?
Be merciful. Be kind.
Give to someone who you think doesn’t deserve it. Ignore people who say you shouldn’t do things like that.
Be gentle with yourself when you fail once again on your diet or whatever failing you are attempting to overcome.
Read your Bible, all of it, and get to know well the stories that surround the commands about mercy, and see for yourself the incredible love and mercy God has for you.
One last thought
This is merely total speculation on my part, but I wonder if many of the Pharisees were so hard on Jesus for being kind because no one had shown kindness and mercy to them. They lived (if they were good Pharisees) an extremely strict and regimented life and most likely experienced little mercy from their peers. But they also did know the Scriptures, the many stories and commands about mercy and I imagine some hearts were touched when Jesus challenged the hardness of their hearts.
We know one of them, Nicodemus, (see John 3) sneaked out at night in fear and met with Jesus to learn more. And he later helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus. That is only one story we know of on how God’s mercy touched what many would have thought an untouchable heart of a strict law-abiding judgmental Pharisee.
Let’s always act in mercy because that pleases our Lord and reflects Him. We never know when that witness may touch the life of even our most severe critic.