ATP Blog #51
Mercy is the compassionate removal of some or all of the consequences another person receives for their actions or words. God showed us the greatest act of mercy in taking on our punishment for our sins, in the person of Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross. So, the big question is, ‘When is it appropriate for me to show someone else mercy?’ People need to face consequences in order to make appropriate changes in their lives, yet sometimes the act of mercy reminds them that there are people who care, and that act of love can also be a motivator towards positive change. Today we look at an example of this in action, demonstrated by none other than God in the Flesh, Jesus Christ.
What is deserved? ‘The scribes and Pharisees brought to [Jesus] a woman caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. What would You say?”’ These people were testing Jesus, wanting to accuse Him. So, what does the law God gave to Israel through Moses say (note that it isn’t the law of Moses, but the law given through Moses)? Leviticus 20:10 tells us, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Thus, what the religious leaders were presenting to Jesus was a case of proven guilt, with witnesses that was to result in the woman’s death. What isn’t stated, is where the man was, since he was supposed to die as well ... and they were caught in the act, so there was no doubt who he was.
What is the test? ‘This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.’ If Jesus agreed that the woman should die, according to the law of Israel, then He would get in trouble with the Romans for killing without permission, and with the crowds who saw Him as a kind and compassionate prophet. If Jesus was to show compassion, and release the woman, then the religious leaders and the crowds would be upset that He would go against the law God gave to Israel.
Act of Mercy ‘Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. ... He raised Himself up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”’ We have no idea what Jesus wrote on the ground, or what caused the people to be honest about their sins (leaving the scene after Jesus challenged them with this statement), but after this action and statement, Jesus was left alone with the woman. The crowd, especially the religious leaders, were more willing to show mercy than to deal with their own sins! Jesus then spoke to the woman, asking, “Where are those accusers of yours?” She said, “No one Lord.” Then Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”’ Jesus not only passed the test, honouring both the Romans and the Law of Israel, but He also showed this woman mercy, allowing her a chance to change.
Result of Mercy ‘Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”’ Take note that this gift of mercy was given with a warning: ‘Go and sin no more.’ The woman received a gift that the man missed out on: a chance to change, and the path to do so. She had come to realize the error of her ways, almost coming to death as a result, and was given a chance to learn a new way. The Bible doesn’t just tell us what to stop doing, but also tells us what to replace those bad habits with. Here, Jesus tells her that if she wants to have the ‘light of life,’ she should follow Him and His ways. So, the result of this encounter was a changed life due to this act of mercy. Was the changed life offered because Jesus knew the woman’s heart, and that she was willing to change? The answer to this is not evident in this story, so I believe that the gift of mercy is one that should be given at any opportunity where there is a chance to change a life.