2 Kings 6:21-23 - As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, "My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?" He answered, "You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.
Elisha not only denounced the king's lust for blood, he also outlined a constructive plan. "Set bread and water before them," he proposed, "that they may eat and drink and go to their master." God's prophet—against the popular opinion and leadership of the day—actually directed that the Syrian prisoners be fed and set free. He wanted mercy, not might, to prevail.
Nor is Elisha's Old Testament voice the only one raised in Scripture, asking for compassion for one's enemies. The apostle Paul echoes the prophet in Romans: "'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20b-21).
From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is filled with similar appeals for pardon. But it is Jesus Himself who gives the lesson of love its strongest appeal in this holy commandment: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). And to underscore this mandate of mercy for our stony hearts, the Gospel repeats, "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28).
This is our directive from the mouth of God's own Son. Do you have the forgiving love of Christ in your life? Are you ready to deny yourself, to forego your pride and ego, so that others might be blessed?
Might or mercy? Condemnation or compassion? The choice so often comes down to these two. May the Holy Spirit grant us all a firm grasp of the choice that Jesus made in the circumstances He faced. Will you now join me in this personal pledge? Jesus, You showed me compassion when Your holiness could have destroyed me in my sins. Blessed Savior, because I am Yours, mercy, not might, will mark my life from this day onward. O Christ, help me to be more like You.
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, forgive us for the love we refuse to show others and draw us more closely to follow the example Jesus set before us—to love one another always. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From "Might or Mercy?" a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier, the first Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have you ever shown mercy to someone when might would have been a logical response?
2. What examples of Jesus loving His enemies inspires you to do that with difficult people in your life?
3. Why is it so easy to condemn others when we don't like that type of attitude toward us?
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