Throughout the bible, God reveals himself as merciful. Whilst he is holy and cannot tolerate sin, he provided a way to deal with our sin. The unique and very costly, yet necessarily so, sacrifice of God the Son, who took on the punishment for our sin.
Will we be arrogant enough to think we make ourselves righteous, or will we accept the righteousness bought by the blood of Christ? Will we endeavour to find out more about this righteous which is available to us, or will we think it is for others, or is too much effort?
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk 18:9-14
Will we be like the Pharisee, mentioned by Jesus in Lk 18, parading our righteous acts before others, exhibiting an unjustified pride in our own abilities, thinking we are justified before God, or will we approach God like the tax collector who acknowledged his sin before God and pleaded for mercy?
Furthermore, if we have been shown mercy, should we not show mercy to others? Not that by showing mercy, we can earn mercy, but rather that God’s mercy flows through us to others.
This evening continued the series on the Christian attitude to relationships, be it between acquaintances, friends or even husband and wife.
As a fundamental rule, we are called to love one another as we love ourselves. The apostle Paul’s definition of love in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthian church is quite apt:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-7
The ultimate reason for loving others, is because God loves us. We can take this definition of love and swap the word ‘love’ for the words ‘Jesus Christ’ and it would be true. If we were then to swap the word ‘love’ for our own name, would it be true? Would it show us to be loving?
Within a marriage, this love is even more important, and to an extent, exclusive. Just as Christ loves the church in an exclusive manner, God has ordained that a husband and wife should have a special love for one another, which requires more effort to maintain, in order that the marriage might be a joyful marriage.
As is so often with the apostle Paul, regardless of what the teaching is, he reminds us that we must first have our faith in Christ, that his Spirit might enable us to do God’s will. Without the Spirit, we are doomed to failure.