I’m representing Biblical Seminary this weekend at the Shepherd Press Marriage & Family conference being held in Harrisburg. Dave Harvey opened the conference with a very good sermon on showing mercy and kindness to family members. He stressed the importance of Luke 6:36 and the need to show mercy to sinners just as God does for us. This goes against our typical human desires for revenge or at least punishment for the misdeeds of others.
But, without taking anything away from the good sermon I found myself asking this question. How would ______ hear the call to have mercy on a sinner spouse. ______ represents a person I know who has been emotionally and financially abused by her husband. She finally was able to bring truth to light and has a reprieve from his sin while he is living with his parents. However, she faces strong pressure by others to reconcile (despite little evidence of true repentance in the husband). Knowing what I know about this woman, I suspect she would feel more pressure to have mercy and allow her husband to return to the home.
I think most sermons really preach to the 80%. 80% hear this and recognize that mercy may be shown in numerous ways. Even allowing truth to come to light is an act of mercy. Mercy may be treating someone better than they deserve but may not mean playing the part of the fool and thinking that a few tears and words are enough. But what of the 20% who are weighed down with guilt and assume that a general principle must be applied in a very black/white manner? How do we care for them when exhorting all Christians on to the Gospel saturated life?
I want to reiterate that I think Dave Harvey did a good job. I do think that it may be too easy for the rest of us to assume that the more vulnerable among us will be able to nuance the big virtues of the Christian faith; that they will know that to emphasize one (e.g., truth-telling) does not mean a rejection of another (e.g., forgiveness).