We are continuing in a sermon series on the Miracle of Mercy and since today is Mother’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate for us to look at showing mercy to the people in our own family, in our own home. The sad fact is we often show less mercy to the people we live with, including ourselves. We’re more impatient and critical of the people in our immediate family than we are with total strangers. We’re harder on those we love. We lose our temper quicker with the people in our own family, the people we love the most. Does that bother anyone? It certainly was a concern for king David. He wrote, “Lord, I want to live a blameless life, but how I need your help, Lord, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should.” (Psalm 101:2) That’s where it’s the hardest to be loving, in our own home. That’s where it’s the hardest to show mercy. And by that I mean: undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.
Let’s take a little quiz to see how we’re doing when it comes to showing mercy to the people in our own family. How merciful are you with your family? 1.) When your spouse or your sibling or another family member gets some detail wrong while telling a story, do you interrupt them and correct them in front of others, or do you say nothing and let it go, knowing you’ve done the same thing before? Go ahead and check off your answer on your sermon outline. You are not allowed to cheat. God is watching you. 2.) When your spouse or sibling or other family member keeps making the same mistake over and over and over, do you become irritated and angry with them, or do you graciously forgive them and pray for them? Go ahead and check off your answer. No cheating now. 3.) When your spouse or sibling or other family member is getting more attention than you think they should, do you feel resentful and try to bring them down a notch, or do you celebrate with them? Check you answer and be honest. 4.) When your spouse or sibling or other family member says or does something that you don’t understand, do you assume they have the best motivation for doing what they’ve done, or do you question their motive and think the worst of them? Check off your answer. Here’s the last question: 5.) Are you more polite with strangers, or with the people in your own family?
If you’ve answered truthfully, then you’re ready for the sermon now. The truth is we all need to work on showing mercy to our own family. Very simply, mercy is love in action. It’s not a feeling, it’s an action. It’s love in action. And here is what the Bible says about love. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love is not boastful or proud. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not irritable or easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices with the truth. Love is always supportive. Love always trusts. Love is always hopeful. Love always perseveres and never gives up. Love never fails. It never ends.” (1st Corinthians 13:4-8) I wanted to talk today on all these sixteen characteristics of love but when I asked Paul what he thought the Mother’s Day message should be, he wisely said, “Short. They’re all going out to lunch.” Very wise man. So let’s just look at FOUR WAYS TO SHOW MERCY AT HOME. These are four characteristics of love in action.
FIRST, you can show mercy to your family BY OVERLOOKING IRRITATIONS AND OFFENSES. You choose to overlook them. You ignore those irritating and offensive things about those in your family. Nobody’s perfect. We can all be irritating and offensive at times. We have to learn to show mercy to those in our family by overlooking the things they do that irritate and offend us. The Bible says, “Love is not irritable or easily angered.” (1st Corinthians 13:5) That’s real love and mercy is real love in action.
Anger is by far the most misunderstood human emotion. It’s also the most mismanaged human emotion. Anger is not necessarily a sin. Sometimes anger is the only appropriate response in a given situation. There are some things we ought to get angry about. The Bible says, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) It’s important to remember that God gets angry and he is incapable of sin. The only reason you have the ability to get angry is because you are made in the image of God. There’s a good kind of anger and there’s a bad kind of anger. There’s a righteous anger and there’s an unrighteous anger. There’s a selfless anger and there’s a selfish anger. Anger in itself is not wrong. It’s the reason why you’re angry that makes anger right or wrong. Prolonged anger of the wrong kind will turn into bitterness and resentment.
Anger is a God given capacity, but it must be for the right reason and always controlled. We have to learn to control our anger. We’ve got to learn to use it wisely. Managed anger is an asset. Every great leader has learned how to manage anger. Those who didn’t learn to manage their anger, their anger became their downfall. One ineffective way to manage anger is to stuff it. If you stuff it down inside you and ignore it, it will find its way to the surface and it won’t be good. Blowing up or clamming up are not effective ways to manage your anger. Inappropriate expressions of anger cause all kinds of problems. Uncontrolled anger is a real problem. It leads to arguments and mistakes. It destroys relationships. What is needed is mercy which is love in action. The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes; nagging about them separates even the closest of friends.” (Proverbs 17:9) It also says, “It is to your glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
When we get angry we need to ask ourselves three questions. Why am I angry? What do I really want out of this? How can I get it? You will never get what you really by blowing up or by clamming up. The Bible says, “Be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.” (1st Thessalonians 5:15)
SECOND, you can show mercy to your family BY BEING KIND EVEN WHEN THEY DON’T DESERVE IT. In every family there are people who are difficult to deal with. Some are difficult to deal with some of the time and others are difficult to deal with all of the time. They may be unreasonable, pushy, self-centered, immature and even abusive. They may be demanding, demeaning, disappointing and even destructive. But we are called to love them. The Bible says, “Love is patient… Love is kind… Love is always supportive.” (1st Corinthians 13:4 & 7)
The key to being kind to others even when they don’t deserve it is to learn more about them. Seek to understand why they are the way they are. The truth is: people who hurt others are hurting inside. Hurt people hurt people. If you actually knew what they’ve been through and how far they’ve come, you wouldn’t be so reluctant to show them kindness. The Bible says, “Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help.” (Proverbs 3:27) It doesn’t say we are to only do good to those who deserve it. We are called to give them what they need, not what they deserve. Showing mercy is about giving undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness. That’s what God does for you. God doesn’t give you what you deserve. He gives you what you need.
The command to show kindness runs all through the Bible. God wants us to be kind like him. Showing kindness is considered by God as an act of worship. We are worshipping God by being kind to others, especially when they don’t deserve it. And the really cool thing is it makes us happier. Kind people are happier people. Kind people have more friends. Kind people are more attractive. Others are drawn to them. The Bible says, “Kindness makes a person attractive.” (Proverbs 19:22) So forget the Botox. Just learn to be a kinder person and you’ll be more attractive. Kindness makes other people want to be kind to you. The Bible also says that God blesses kindness. These are all benefits to being kind. The Bible says, “Don’t be hateful to people, just because they are hateful to you. Rather, be good to each other and to everyone else.” (1st Thessalonians 5:15) That’s how we are to show mercy to the people, especially those in our own families. And it’s a choice to be kind to people who have never been kind to you. That’s not easy.
Our ability to show mercy is not dependent on the other person’s response to it. We get the ability to show mercy from God, from understanding the mercy God has shown to us. He continues to show us mercy each new day. The Bible tells us that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. He shows us mercy so we can show mercy to others, even those who do not deserve it. Harboring resentment won’t bring us peace and happiness. Revenge and retaliation toward those who have hurt us won’t bring us peace and happiness. The pathway to peace and happiness is through the miracle of mercy.
THIRD, you can show mercy to your family BY LETTING GO OF PAST HURTS. We show mercy by letting go of past hurts. The Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (1st Corinthians 13:5) Since mercy is love in action and love keeps no record of wrongs, we’ve got to let go of past hurts. We can’t keep dragging them around. We can’t keep keeping score. It takes a lot of energy to remember who did what to us and how that felt. We need to let go of past hurts and use that emotional energy to love one another. Somebody told me that he got into an argument with his wife and she got historical on him. I said, “Don’t you mean hysterical?” He said, “No. Historical. She told me everything I’ve ever done wrong.” If you’re having those kind of arguments with your spouse or family members, then someone isn’t letting go of past hurts. They are remembering them so they can bring them up again and again. “ Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Holding on to past hurts will keep you from loving those who have hurt you. Don’t repeat it. Delete it. Don’t rehearse it over and over in your mind. Let it go. And don’t tell others about what he said/she said. That’s called gossip. Don’t repeat it. Delete it. The Bible says, “Love is not rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges.” (1st Corinthians 13:5) Did you know that rude people are simply those who are holding a grudge. They are irritable and touchy and insist on their own way because they are holding a grudge. They are holding on to past hurts and those past hurts are dictating how they relate to others today. You’ve got to let go of past hurts. God wants you to show mercy to those who don’t deserve it and you can’t do that if you’re still hanging on to the pain others have caused you somewhere in the past.
FOURTH, you can show mercy to your family BY TRUSTING GOD TO WORK IN THEIR HEARTS. Trusting God to work in the hearts and minds of the people in your family is the fourth way to show mercy to them. It’s more than just believing God can make a difference. It’s trusting God to do it. You can’t change anyone, but God can. Mercy is trusting God to bring about the change he desires in a person’s heart. The Bible says, “Love always trusts. Love is always hopeful. Love always perseveres and never gives up. Love never fails. It never ends.” (1st Corinthians 13:4-8) A way you can tell if you are trusting God to work in the hearts of those you love is by how much you pray for them. How often do you lift them before the Lord in prayer? How intense are your prayers for those you love? If you never pray for them, you’re not trusting God to work in their hearts.
The Psalmist prayed, “Lord, hear my prayer for mercy when I call to you for help, when I lift my hands toward your most holy place.” (Psalm 28:2) You can sense the intensity of David’s cry for help in this verse. That’s how we are to pray, and not just for ourselves but also for those we love. Mercy is love in action and love never gives up. Love compels us to keep trusting God to bring about a change in the hearts and minds of those we love. Love also compels us to be open to God—trusting him to work in our hearts as well. Often our loved ones are not going to change until we do. If we keep doing the same old thing, we’re going to get the same old thing. We need to open our hearts to God and trust him to do a good thing in us, and through us.
Praying in faith, trusting God to work to meet the needs of those we love, believing in God’s goodness, hoping in his power, and standing on his promises through prayer is the most powerful act of mercy we can do for our family members. Spending time before God’s throne of grace is the most powerful act of mercy we can do for those we love. I don’t know why some prayers are answered and others are not. I just know that God tells us to pray—to pray without ceasing. And as we pray God works on our hearts and we align ourselves with his will. We come to a place where we can say, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” We experience the mercy of trusting God regardless of the outcome.
We often turn to prayer as our last resort, when God wants us to make it our first choice for showing mercy. In times of tragedy or threatening circumstances we often hear people say, “Well, I guess all we can do is pray.” We treat prayer as the last resort. It’s actually the most powerful way we can show mercy to our family—by praying for them and trusting God to work in their lives. If you’re not praying for your spouse, for your children, for your extended family, then you’re missing out on your greatest influence for good in their lives. Praying for someone is the most power act of mercy you can do. It unleashes the power of God on that person and it is the best thing we can do no matter what the circumstances. Throw yourself on God’s mercy. Cast yourself on God’s love.
I firmly believe that everyone is going through a storm, coming out of a storm or heading into a storm. Life is a series of ups and downs, a series of losses and gains. Like Jeremiah we need to turn to God for the mercy we need to survive the storms and the mercy we need to love others through their storms. Jeremiah writes, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.” (Lamentations 3:20-23)
How do we show mercy to others?
- By overlooking irritations and offences
- By being kind even when others don’t deserve it
- By letting go of past hurts
- By trusting God to work in the hearts and minds of those we love
These are the four ways we are to show mercy to our families and they are the same ways God shows mercy to us.