Mercy & Truth = Goodness

Proverbs 14:22 "Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be unto them that devise good."

Some Christians focus their attention on truth and seem to let mercy fall by the wayside.  I don't think that is as much the problem today as it once was.  However, down in the woods of South Arkansas, it is still somewhat of a problem.  We are about 10 years behind everyone else, and there are those hard core fundamentalists that seem to have no mercy.  There are also those who focus on mercy so much that they forget the truth, and to truly follow Christ, which in the end is truly not mercy.  This is more common today in churches. One must exercise both in harmony for each of them to be genuine.  You cannot subscribe to the truth and ignore mercy any more than you can subscribe to mercy and ignore the truth.  To truly be merciful, truth must be present, and to truly be truthful, mercy must be present.  They are synonymous.  So for true goodness to be present, mercy and truth must be.  I find that I struggle the most with being merciful.  It is hard to balance these two.  I think it is because as a human, I have a great problem with understanding how these two can be harmonious.  I am such a divided individual, and can separate things to the point where they lose their true meaning.  How does true mercy and truth work together?  What is true goodness? It is kind of like if someone in your family had a painful knee surgery and was going to need some rehabilitation for them to walk again.  If your relative walks on their leg that has been operated on, it will hurt and I imagine the pain would be excruciating.  But, if they don't walk on it, they will have trouble down the road recovering and learning to walk and may never walk again.  So what is the good and loving thing to do? What is truthful? and what is merciful? The truth is that mercy involves some pain at first.  In this situation it is physically painful for the relative, and emotionally painful for you.  It is more merciful to be tough with your relative and get them to endure some pain to walk again than to let them sit and never regain strength in their leg.  It is much the same way in our walk as Christians in the Church.  We all need accountability, and it can be a painful process.  The church in general knows the truth, but is afraid to share it because of the fear of offending someone else or losing a friend. Is this merciful? Matthew 10:28 says 

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

So in light of this verse, we should be merciful by sharing the truth, even if it is painful. Why? because in the long run it will bring health and restoration to that person, and you as well.  Should I be blunt? Yes.  Should I be harsh? No.  Speak the truth without fear, and season your words with mercy. The method of counsel and rebuke is important. Proverbs 15:1 says:

"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grevious words stir up anger."

Speak truthfully, but don't use inflammatory language. Be kind but do not avoid speaking and living the truth.  If something is sinful, don't be afraid to state it.  Remember, the truth is grating to a sinner no matter how it is spoken, but if God is with that person, they may flinch, but will love your counsel in the end and thank you for it.  For one to understand the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, they must first understand the bad news.  They must be drawn away from the comfort of sin, and that drawing process is much like rehabilitation.  It is painful and hard to do. 

What about legalism? My understanding of legalism is that it is truth without mercy which in all truth ceases to be truth.  The problem with the Pharisees for example was their pursuit of the law without mercy.  Jesus revealed their hypocrisy by quoting Hosea 6:6 when he told them in Matthew 9:13:

"But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Was Jesus statement merciful?  He was accusing the Pharisees of not being merciful and revealing their hypocrisy by quoting the word of God.  Therefore, to point someone to the truth involves making right judgements, speaking and living the truth, and exercising mercy.  Jesus seemed harsh to the Pharisees, but in all truth he was being merciful by stating their sin.  I have always wanted to get along with everyone, and that is a good desire, but we must not ignore sin in the church.  Treat others as you want to be treated, and as for me, I want someone to set me straight if I am false in my lifestyle and words.  Every Christian should want that, but I have found much contention and foolishness in most churches because of pride and the desires of vanity.  There is so much worldliness in the local churches that the amount of true believers in them seems scarce. Solomon said in Proverbs 9:6-10

"Forsake the foolish, and live ; and go in the way of understanding. He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner , lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser : teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."

This is a good litmus test to determine true and false brethren. A true brother will listen to a soft answer in truth, but a scorner and a wicked man will hate the truth no matter how it is spoken.  So consider the source.  Of course, make sure that if you make a decision to rebuke or counsel that your words are accurate with the context of the Bible.  If you are not sure, ask someone that is wiser.  I have to do that a lot.  Make sure that mercy and truth are present, and the rebuke or counsel will be full of goodness.  May God get the glory.

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