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Gerhard on Trinity IV – Luke 6:36-42

by pastorjuhl ~ June 22nd, 2010

While admonishing us to good works, the Lord Christ presses us above all to do the works of mercy. “Be merciful,” He says. Indeed, there are also other good works, especially those performed for the Lord God according to the first table of the Law. But, nevertheless, it was Christ’s desire first and foremost to urge good works. The reason for this is as follows: To be merciful means to have a loving, sympathetic, and compassionate heart toward one’s neighbor, and to regard the neighbor’s travail as one’s own, willing and ready to help him in whichever way it may be, by deed or counsel, by help or consolation, by words or works, or, if there are no other means, then by prayer and heartfelt sympathy.

A man, says Tauler, must find and practice mercy inwardly in his thinking, so that within himself he finds a firm and genuine compassion toward his neighbor whenever he is aware that his neighbor is suffering, be it inwardly or outwardly. With heartfelt compassion you should desire that God console him. Also, if you can help him in external things, be it by counsel or deed or by words or works, you should help him as much as you can. If you can do only little, then do at least something, whether it be by inward or outward sympathy, or by speaking a good word to him in this way. This, you see, is being merciful and stems from brotherly, unfeigned love. If I am to have compassion toward my neighbor, then through love I must first bring his suffering into myself and regard it as my own as well as his. The reason why Christ exhorts us to be merciful is that love, out of which mercy flows, is the sum of the entire Law (Romans 13:8). Love is the “bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14) [Postilla 2:49].

God shows us Him mercy in Christ, hence we are in turn to show mercy to our neighbor, so that the former oneness and unity can be restored. Therefore, as Jesus was about to enter His suffering He prayed so fervently (John 17:21) that all believers would be one just as the Father is in Him and He in the Father, so that they, the believers, also would be one among themselves. He did this in order to show that the whole work of salvation is directed at restoring the blissful unity that was lost in the fall to sin. You see, this is the reason Christ so deeply urges mercy before all other good works. It is because the mother of mercy, the fundamental love of one’s neighbor, is the sum of the Law and the bond of perfection (2:50).

The Lord God does not need our services; they make Him neither greater nor smaller. However, He has placed our neighbor beside us as a test; He wishes to test us to see if in our hearts we love our neighbor. In fact, the Lord God has so inseparably fastened love of him to the love of one’s neighbor that in this gospel Christ expressly states that, if we forget love and compassion for our neighbor, and frivolously judge and condemn  him, then He will judge and condemn us. God will not be merciful toward anyone who is not merciful toward his neighbor, James 2:13: “But there shall be a merciless judgment upon him who has not shown mercy” (2:51).

Christ teaches further here what the correct nature and characteristic of mercy is. God’s mercy is an undeserved, unencumbered mercy. God loves mankind before and above all, yea, despite all that we deserve; and it is also in this way we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). God’s mercy is without deceit; His love is from His heart without distinction of persons, and He lets His sun rise over the evil and the good. This is also how the nature of our mercy should be, that without distinction of the person we sincerely love all men. God’s mercy is real; He does not love with words but in deed and truth. This is also how we should show our mercy, in deeds and works (1 John 3:18). God’s mercy is unchanging; He loves unremittingly and tires not easily of compassion. This is also how we should do good, with compassion and not tire of it (Galatians 6:9). God’s mercy is free; He does not love for the sake of reward; He is not self-seeking, but He is merciful because it is His nature. This is also how we should love, in the simplicity of the heart, not seeking our own honor and benefit from our works of mercy (2:53).

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