January 20, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 6)

Submitted by Sarah K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church
REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 6:27-36
• How did Jesus himself live out these teachings?
Jesus practiced what he preached. From his very act of coming down to earth, in the midst of messy humanity, he exercised love for his enemies and doing good to those who hated him. Throughout human history, man has been in rebellion against God, declaring our own autonomy and independence from God’s authority in our lives. Though we responded to God in this way, Jesus came and dwelt among us. As it says in Isaiah 53, he was despised and rejected by men. While Jesus was on earth, people criticized him, the religious leaders were constantly looking for ways to trap him. Yet Jesus walked among us and healed the sick, showed compassion to the outcasts, touched the lepers and spent time with us. He was kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Though people hated him to the point of plotting his execution though he did nothing wrong, he did not retaliate, but went all the way to the cross. With his last breath, he prayed for those who were killing him. He had the authority to speak these words because he lived them out to the end.

• What can I do to practice these verses in my life?
I have many opportunities to live out these verses in my daily interactions with people. When I feel slighted by my husband, or if I feel that he’s not as attentive to my needs as I would like, I have the option to either respond to this with kindness or unkindness. As I minister to people and when some are not appreciative of my efforts, I can choose to be upset about that or I can continue to serve even if my efforts go unnoticed. When I notice a little mess here and there, something that no one thought to wipe up, or trash that no one took out, or an area that was left messy after everyone left, I can choose to ignore it and hope that someone else will clean it up, or I can clean up though no one would know that I did. When someone I am trying to love misunderstands me and perhaps wrongly accuses me of some false ulterior motive that I didn’t have, I can choose to move towards them or subtly grow cold towards them. Even though these acts are nothing compared to the way that Jesus loved his true enemies, there are many opportunities daily to deny my natural inclination to “pay people back” and instead exercise love and mercy towards others.

Luke 6:36 ?“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
• How has God been merciful to me personally?
God has been merciful to me personally by not treating me as my sins deserved. As someone who grew up going to church, I always knew about God and didn’t doubt His existence. Yet I purposefully decided that I didn’t like His authority in my life and didn’t want any authority in my life. I decided that if God existed, I should give my allegiance to Him but I didn’t want to. This intentional rebellion should have incited his wrath, and if anyone treated any person this way, they would rightfully feel angry and hurt, and not want anything to do with me. Instead, God treated me with patience and mercy. He led me to our church where I learned the gospel message. After living my own way for a few years, I had made so many regretful decisions. At this point, I didn’t think I could ever be reconciled to a holy God. God did not meet me with words of “I told you so.” Instead, I heard a message on John 8 where Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Those words personally struck me, and I couldn’t believe that those words were for me, that Jesus didn’t condemn me but instead would give me a new lease on life, a new slate where I could actually leave my life of sin. The way that God was merciful to me, His enemy, changed my life forever.

After that point, God has been merciful to me again and again, as in small and big ways, as a sinner, I continue to keep sinning. By default, I disobey and assert my autonomy over my own life. Each time, God meets me with mercy. He gives me opportunities to confess and repent, and the same words that changed me many years ago hit me afresh again and again; words of forgiveness, compassion and love.

•What sins or shortcomings in others do I find it particularly difficult to be merciful toward?
Ironically, I find it difficult to be merciful towards sins or shortcomings that I see in myself and that I see as resilient issues in myself. I find it difficult to be merciful towards others who continue to continue in the same patterns even though they “should know better,” even though I myself continue in the same old patterns even though I should know better. In this way, I see how twisted I am, in that I’ve been shown such mercy yet quickly turn around and fail to show the same mercy towards others.

•How can I become a person of greater mercy?
I can become a person of greater mercy by following Jesus’ example and the example of others in my life who move towards people, even people who have wronged them. This is what I’ve experienced not only from God but from the people in my life, my leaders, spouse and friends especially. Even though they have seen and been on the receiving end of my sins, they have not abandoned me but instead move towards me, expressing not only forgiveness but a greater vision for my life. They try to understand why I am the way that I am and concretely help me to change different sin patterns in my thinking and my actions. I can exercise greater mercy towards others by moving towards them, by getting to know them and their background. When I know someone’s background and what contributed to their makeup, I find the ability to empathize with them and show greater compassion. Perhaps that is one thing that enables God to show such mercy; He knows us thoroughly, knows our brokenness and how mangled we are by sin, so He has pity and compassion. When I recognize someone’s humanity, I see them not as a distant figure who does things that bother or annoy me, but instead as a person with a past, a story, a history that has marred them, and I can have compassion on them. I can move towards them by seeking reconciliation if there is tension or frustration between us. As I’m in the position to minister to many younger ones, I can show mercy on others by forgiving them even when they’ve wronged me, and showing them a different vision for their lives and giving them hope for change.

PERSONAL PRAYER
•Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text, or upon reflection over recent events in your life.
Dear God, thank You for showing me unending mercy and compassion over many years. Over time, what has consistently emerged out of me is sin, and each time, You have never responded with retribution but with kindness and forgiveness. Help me to live with humble gratitude, and to extend the same love for others, and in this way, showing this cold and unforgiving world that You are a God who is so different, who loves Your enemies and who is kind to the righteous and the wicked.

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Submitted by Michael K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Luke 6:27-36
The standard that Jesus establishes is one of treating others with love and kindness that is unconditional, i.e. regardless of what they may have done against you. Anyone – “even ‘sinners’” – can love those who love them, but he is calling his followers to love their enemies, and to do good not just to those who are good to them, but also to those who are not.

Perhaps on a very good day, when one is feeling extremely generous and charitable, this might be possible. But in general, I see that this is such a hard thing to do. My natural response when I am wronged in some way (which, in modern life, basically means I’ve been slightly inconvenienced) is to get annoyed. And my immediate gut-level response is to pay the other person back in kind rather than to be “merciful”.

A small and trivial example from this past week: a technician parked in my assigned parking spot at home, and placed two orange cones in front of their van. It was a bit irksome, and I have to confess that my first thought was to inconvenience them back and express my displeasure in some way – maybe by moving their cones somewhere else. In the end, I did call them and kindly asked them to move their car elsewhere. They didn’t apologize and I felt an additional slight offense at that. But it did surprise me, as I reflected on this later, that something so small, which really was not an inconvenience to me other than taking a few minutes of my time, would cause such a reaction.

Though this is somewhat of a silly example, as I thought about what other supposed wrongs or conflicts I face, I realized that I don’t even have people that I can call “enemies.” Basically even the conflicts or tensions that arise are with people that are close to me, that I would consider friends or family, i.e. “those who love you.” But even with these people, it’s so difficult to live out these principles of turning the other cheek, giving to everyone who asks, and doing to others as I would have them do to me.

That is how far I am from the standard that Jesus that prescribes and that he himself demonstrated as he responded to rebellious sinners that he came to save. He was the innocent party, who allowed himself to be convicted and nailed on a cross by the very people he came to rescue. In light of this supreme example of mercy and grace, of Creator for creature, of the Holy for the wicked, my heart is shown to be the small and shriveled heart that it is. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked,” and therefore I ought to be merciful just as God is merciful, and is merciful to me.

I’m also reminded of the parable of the unmerciful servant, who didn’t recognize the magnitude of the debt that had been canceled on his behalf, and was unable to have mercy on his fellow servant who owed him such a small amount. This is quite characteristic of myself, as I see how much I don’t want to let go of the little ways that I am inconvenienced or less-than-positively treated by the people I interact with on a daily basis. Most of the time I’m just moving on, not because I made the conscious decision to let it go, but simply because I forgot about it. I have a long way to go in living up to Jesus’ standard here, and I need to continually meditate on the kind of grace and mercy I’ve received, so that I can be properly calibrated to be gracious to others in kind. I also need to identify these times when I am being petty or small-hearted, repent of this, and also confess to the other party when this is causing me to act coldly towards them.

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