MERCY IN A CANCEL-CULTURE WORLD

Cancel Culture” is a popular term used today. It’s a form of blacklisting by deeming someone unacceptable and ejecting them out of a social or professional circle—either on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this blacklisting are said to be ‘cancelled’.   

                The Pharisees were the ‘cancellers’ of their day during the time when Jesus walked with men. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others (Luke 18:9). It was this religious sect that would follow Jesus around. They’d seek to tempt, provoke, and catch Jesus in something he said or did that went against the Law so they could accuse and condemn him (Luke 11:54). The Pharisees were known for their outward pious acts, but Jesus challenged them as he knew their inner intentions. He called out their hypocrisy before the multitudes and his disciples. He admonished them of paying tithes but neglecting the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faith. He pointed out to them that although they outwardly appeared righteous to men, their insides were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23).

                Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners—the outcasts of society. This caused the Pharisees to murmur against him and his disciples. Jesus explained that only sick people (not those in good health) need a physician.  In the same way Jesus didn’t come to call on the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:27-32). He displayed tenderness, compassion, and sympathy toward the lost yet never condoned sin. As the sinner received grace from Him they were told to “sin no more” (John 5:14, 8:11).

                The three parables that Jesus told in chapter 15 of Luke all center on something that is lost. They are directed to the Pharisees and scribes who complained about Jesus, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

                The first is about a lost sheep. The shepherd in the parable has 100 sheep and one goes missing. After he finds the one that is lost he calls his friends together to rejoice with him. Jesus ends this parable saying,  “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

                The second parable is about a woman who has lost one of her ten silver coins. When she finds her lost coin she calls her friends to rejoice with her. Jesus ends this parable saying, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   

                Both these parables build up to the third one which is about a lost son. A father has two sons. The younger son wants his inheritance from his father now. After his father gives it to him he travels to a far country and wastes it on riotous living. He soon hits rock bottom and comes to his senses. Feeling unworthy to be his father’s son anymore he decides to go home and ask if he can work as one of his father’s servants. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”  The father is elated that his lost son has come home and wants to rejoice and celebrate. The older son hears of this and is angry as he has been the ‘dutiful’ son and never received such a celebration. The father replies to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”

                Thankfully our Father God is like the lost son’s father. None of us are righteous, yet God does not cancel us out. He is the God of all mercy (Rom. 3:10, 23). His mercy is so great that even while we were yet outcasts (sinners), Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). God did do some ‘cancelling’. He cancelled our debt of sin by substituting His One and only begotten Son (who was without blame) to pay the penalty for our sin.  Jesus Christ bore the wrath that we deserved and took it out of the way and nailed it to the cross (Isa. 53:5-6, 11, 2 Cor. 5:21, Col. 2:11-15). Now that is a merciful God! Mercy and grace cannot be earned by what we do. It must be received with a humble and contrite heart. We’d all fail if Justification was based on moral performance (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). It was the tax collector, who prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” who was justified, not the Pharisee who prayed listing his outward deeds (Luke 18:9-14). God’s not asking for perfection—that’s not possible. What God does desire is a heart free of pride (Ps. 51:7, Prov. 11:2, 29:23, Phil. 2:5-8). So although a believer is not saved by works, he/she should have a desire to do the good works that God preordained for them (Eph. 2:8-10). God’s grace is in abundance for those willing to receive it and is just enough for each moment of each day (James 4:6, 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Think of it like a fresh, bottomless cup of coffee or tea.

                After Israel was taken captive and Jerusalem was made desolate, the prophet Jeremiah sat weeping and lamenting over Jerusalem. In the midst of this (in chapter 3 of Lamentations), he says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” 

Allow the Lord to be your portion each day. Let His grace continually fill your cup and rejoice in the Lord always!

Laura

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