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Mercy Not Sacrifice

Posted by on in The Upward Call
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mercy triumphs over judgement

It is tough once we have a little bit of righteousness in our lives to figure out to handle it. We begin to feel like we are better than we probably are, yet we are not as bad as we used to be. However, this little bit of cleansing can have a detrimental effect like it did on the Pharisees if we let it.


Jesus was reclining at the table of a house with many tax collectors and sinners and the Pharisees saw this and began to hurl stones at Jesus in the form of this type of statement, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matt. 9:11). We sometimes forget that it is God who makes us clean, not our own action. What do I mean by this? It is only by conforming our will to His will that we know what we are doing is right. Without God’s guidance we struggle. On the other hand, somehow we begin to forget what we were like before we began to listen to God’s instruction. We don’t believe we could have ever been as bad as “those” people are. This simply is not true.


Remember when Peter said, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matt. 19:27). Why did he feel like he needed to remind Jesus of their “sacrifice?” Sacrifice is sometimes used by us to draw God’s attention to what we have done for Him. Jesus reminds Peter and the other disciples that “in the new world . . . everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:28-29). Jesus was trying to emphasize the same type of lesson with the Pharisees while he was eating with tax collectors and sinners.


If we continually look to what are we getting out of it, we miss the point of God’s mercy that allowed us to be part of His kingdom in the first place. Much like the Pharisees, when we begin to be a little bit righteous, it becomes self-righteousness. Therefore, Jesus tells them and us, we need to “go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13). When we begin looking to disqualify people from God’s presence, we have gone too far! While we are teaching a gospel that promotes God’s love for all and His desire that everyone should come to repentance and salvation, we are focusing on the correct aspect of God’s message.


The Pharisees couldn’t wait to try to discredit Jesus’ message because of who he was hanging out with and spending time with. I pray that we don’t fall into the trap of the Pharisees where we are promoting our own “self-sacrifice” at the expense of God’s mercy for those who need it.

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