February 22, 2024

Beside Still Waters: Mercy, not Sacrifice

Therese Apel

Photo by Rajesh Rajput on Unsplash

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:9-10

This is probably going to hurt the feelings of some Christians who feel like serving Christ is all about rules and hell and judgement, but read that verse again, and read it with your heart trained on God.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34

A new command. He said this on the night of his betrayal. When He says, “love one another,” that doesn’t mean other Christians. It means other humans. All the other humans. Love is a choice we make, and we may have to override every last bit of our human instinct to judge.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” because it still leaves us in a position of judgement. The final say is God’s, and He has told us to love. Love the sinner, PERIOD. You’re not better than anyone, you have sin too. Don’t forget it.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13

So we’re not just told to love others, we’re told to lay down our lives for them. I don’t care that it’s more comfortable to walk past that homeless man or look down your nose at the woman who had an affair. I don’t care if you feel better about yourself when you can put others down. You know what? You are to make yourself uncomfortable to the death for these people in this world we judge so harshly all the time. Love others AS HE DID.

The transgender. The murderer. The person of another race. The Calvinist. The Buddhist. The police officer. The politician. The person who curses like a sailor. The prissy Miss Perfect who makes you feel so jealous. ALL OF THEM. LOVE THEM.

And if this seems radical to you, here’s God’s word to us through the Apostle John in 1 John 4.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Yes, the Old Testament gives us historical context, prophesies, stories about the heroes of the faith, but the new covenant came with Christ. When he died, the sacrifices stopped because He bought our debt. It’s His now. When we choose to judge, in essence, we’re trying to usurp what is God’s to decide, not just because He’s God, but because He paid it all.

Here’s what He said on the very issue of judgement.

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:12-13


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