Last post I talked about faith, one of the three weightier matters of the law. Another weightier matter of the law is mercy (Matthew 23:23).
There are few aspects of God's law and way of life more important than mercy. Mercy is an aspect of love, and love is a basis for all of the law of God. "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10). "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' " (Galatians 5:14). "Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets' " (Matthew 22:35-40).
We all need God's mercy and love, and we likewise are required to show mercy to others. "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).
God is clear that if we want mercy, we better be merciful, for if we are not merciful to others, God will not be merciful to us.
What we sow, that we shall reap (Galatians 6:7).
"But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him" (Matthew 18:28-34).
"Then Jesus answered and said: 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead...But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you." So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?' And he said, 'He who showed mercy on him.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise' " (Luke 10:30, 33-37).
"With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful..." (Psalm 18:25).
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).
How do we show mercy to others?
We should certainly forgive others as they repent, and we can pray for them that they repent, and we should not hold grudges or wish people ill or seek to take our own personal vengeance on them because we want to harm them.
We can show mercy in many little ways, as opportunity provides, with the people we come into direct contact with: our family, our friends, our next door neighbors, our fellows workers where we are employed, members of our congregation, etc.
We can show mercy by treating others with the respect and outgoing concern with which we would like to be treated. "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12).
Some people have more opportunity to show compassion and mercy than others. We may all want to help others, but some of us have more opportunity due to circumstances and ability.
But there is one big area where everyone in the Church of God can practice mercy, compassion, and love for others who need it. And this is one big area I feel Church members will be judged on. We may not think of it as mercy, but it is mercy and it is love.
Those who are familiar with my writings may guess where I am headed.
The greatest act of love towards God and neighbor and mercy and compassion towards those who need it that Church of God members can perform, the greatest bar none, is to support the preaching of the gospel to the public and the giving of the Ezekiel warning to all Israel. Nothing else can compare to it. Not helping a widow move, not contributing money to hurricane victims, not giving rides to Church members to services, but preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Those with incomes can contribute money. Those who can work can volunteer service. But everyone can fervently pray for the preaching of the gospel, and we can all strive to diligently obey God's commandments so our prayers for the gospel will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7, 1 John 3:22, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Colossians 4:2-3).
Striving in prayer for the gospel can be a great motivation for overcoming our sins. If we are motivated to overcome our sins, to put sin out of our lives, so that God will answer our prayers for the preaching of the gospel, our motive will be based on love. We are overcoming our sins for the sake of others, for their welfare, not just for our own benefit so we can be in the Kingdom of God.
What we sow, we shall reap. If we do not show mercy to others, God will not show mercy to us.
This gospel issue is probably the biggest test of all of us in the Church of God that God can give us. And there is no doubt about it - we are being tested on this issue.
Look at it logically, step by step, point by point:
1) We know the great tribulation is coming upon our nations as punishment for sin.
2) We know it will be the greatest time of trouble in the history of mankind. About 90% or more of our people will die and the rest will go through extreme suffering and agony of famine, disease, war, and slavery. We have the history of the Holocaust during World War II as a foretaste. The great tribulation will be worse. The famine will be so severe, some parents will kill and eat their children. That didn't even happen in the Holocaust (or if it did, it was rare).
3) We know that the great tribulation will be punishment for the sins of the nation. Yet we also know that most members of traditional, mainstream churches in our nations do not know they are doing wrong by following pagan traditions, using images in worship, and working on the seventh day Sabbath.
4) It is not hard to understand and predict the reaction most or many of the members of the traditional, mainstream churches will have if they find themselves in the punishment of the tribulation for things they didn't know were wrong because they never had a warning in time to repent and escape. We can understand because we have human nature too. They will want to know why God did not provide a warning, to give them a chance. They will be tempted to think of God as unjust and unloving. It will be hard for them to accept responsibility for their sins because they will think, "It's not my fault, I didn't know." They will be tempted to say, "If God warned me, I would have repented - this is God's fault, not mine. God is not fair." The lack of warning, the lack of a message calling them to repentance while there was time for them to repent and escape, can become a stumbling block to make their repentance in the tribulation more difficult.
5) Since the repentance of Israel will be made more difficult if we never warn them in time for them to repent, some could lose their eternal salvation if we do not warn.
6) God has given us the job of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. God emphasizes our responsibility by telling us that the blood of the people will be on our heads if we do not warn them (Ezekiel 3:18).
7) It does not glorify God or show love for God if we fail to give the warning God wants Israel to receive. It does not glorify his name and reputation for fairness and compassion if we do not give the warning message in time. We are to represent God and His way of life, but we do a poor job if we fail to give the warning message that our nations need.
8) This is an issue that potentially affects hundreds of millions of people!
9) We have the legal freedom today and the financial prosperity to preach the gospel and deliver the Ezekiel warning. It depends on our willingness to sacrifice.
10) The preaching of the gospel today is done with money. God has not given us outstanding miracle-working power, signs and wonders, to attract publicity for our message. We do it with money. We do it with the opportunities and resources money can buy: television, radio, print, Internet, and public meetings. Only a tiny portion of the public sees the personal examples of our members, and only a very tiny portion of those converse with our members long enough about the Bible to really get a warning. Preaching the gospel by example is 99% myth and 1% truth. Yes, our example is important, but it is nowhere near enough because it only reaches a token number of people who need the warning.
11) The more Church of God members sacrifice financially for the gospel, the greater the warning we can give. Every small sacrifice: giving up restaurant meals, vacations, games, movies, junk food, etc. can help reach more people with a message that can save their eternal lives.
God has set up a perfect situation to test us. He is testing us on the most important point of His law: love. To practice that love, we have to sacrifice. We have to give up the little things and some of the big things we spend money on so we can contribute to the preaching of the gospel for the good of our neighbors. We must choose: we choose to love ourselves more than our neighbors, or to love our neighbors as ourselves. We choose to love God will all our being, or to love God less than we love ourselves.
Those who lack money and cannot contribute financially can strive fervently in prayer for the gospel, and all of us should do that anyway. And all of us should strive to obey God and put sin out of our lives so He will answer our prayers for the gospel. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).
Thus, God can test every one of us to the utmost. He can test each one of us in a very direct way. If we love, we will go all out to support the preaching of the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. If we do not love, we will not preach the gospel. God sees where each and every one of us stands, and we will be judged by our mercy, or lack of it, towards our neighbors.
Some may say, "God will make sure the warning goes out, even if we do not do our part to deliver it. God will raise up stones, if necessary, to preach the gospel according to His will." But I do NOT find that teaching in the Bible. See my post, "Do Our Choices Really Affect the Preaching of the Gospel?", dated May 16, 2014, link:
If a Church of God member does not zealously and passionately go all out to support the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, to help the salvation of others, where is his mercy? And if he has no mercy, how will God be merciful to him?
This is a big issue, and a big test, for the whole Church of God. If we are serious about putting sin out of our lives, we need to really obey the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Here are links to posts related to this subject:
"To Be Effective in Giving a Warning, We Have to Overcome Even When It Is Hard", dated September 3, 2013, link:
"Has God Made the Church an 'Ezekiel Watchman' for Israel?", dated February 13, 2014, link:
"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:
"Do Our Choices Really Affect the Preaching of the Gospel?", dated May 16, 2014, link:
"Philadelphia's Open Door - Does It Apply to Individual Members?", dated September 17, 2014, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 5 - SHOULD THE CHURCH FEED THE FLOCK ONLY?