By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
I am guilty. I love to be around people I love. I like to avoid people I don't. Like challenging relatives, unfriendly associates or old enemies. Which basically means I prefer the company of friends and family. It's that simple. It's that sinful. Why? It lacks mercy. Mercy is love in action.
Because in choosing to hang with the ninety-nine easy sheep, I neglect the one who is lost. 'What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? (Matthew 18:12). 'For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
Maybe that sheep is a prodigal. Maybe that sheep is a pagan. Maybe that sheep is distracted, hurt or even hateful. All the more reason to find it. 'There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance' (Luke 15:7).
What if God forgot about me? Because I held out on Him for 51 years: years of pride, anger and self-righteousness. What if God wrote me off as difficult? But He didn't, so neither must I write off difficult people--nor limit my seeking to Him alone. I must seek them too. Like Jesus, 'I must be about my Father's business' (Luke 2:49).
I must build my credit account in Heaven. How? Show mercy! Because if I show mercy, God shows me mercy. Consider the word, mercy. It comes from the Latin 'mercedem,' meaning reward or wages. In the early church, it 'applied to the heavenly reward of those who show kindness to the helpless' (Etymology Dictionary). A lost sheep may not know it's helpless, but it is.
'Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do' (Colossians 3:12-13). I must 'Put on the Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 13:14).
Jesus sought sinners, forgave executioners and loved without exclusion. His mercy cannot be measured, but it can be imitated.
To Be Continued...
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Unforgiveness series.