Vessels of Mercy
On the next day, however, the whole congregation of the Israelites rebelled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” And when the congregation had assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting; the cloud had covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, put fire on it from the altar and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them. For wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.” So Aaron took it as Moses had ordered, and ran into the middle of the assembly, where the plague had already begun among the people. He put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. Those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. When the plague was stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
What is the difference between Grace and Mercy? Do they both just mean getting away without paying a debt, or having a debt forgiven? I think grace and mercy have more similarities than differences and, semantically, perhaps mercy is a subset of grace. If grace was fruit in general, than perhaps mercy would be strawberries – the kind of fruit that everyone likes unless they have an allergic reaction to it. Some people just cannot stomach mercy themselves. Of course, it is not unusual for a person to have digestive problems with more than one type of fruit.
The point is this: if you cannot receive mercy yourself, it becomes very hard to give it. Take Moses for example. He was a murderer and a refugee who went from nobility to nomad in a single day. Yet God chose him, had mercy upon him, and brought him to a place of honor above that of Pharoah himself. Having received mercy himself, Moses was willing to stand in the gap for the Hebrew people on mult iple occaisions. Peter also received a similar kind of mercy when, after denying even knowing Jesus, he was welcomed back into the fold and commissioned to tell the world about the grace and mercy he had received from Jesus.
Jesus told a parable specifically about the importance of being filled with and then sharing mercy,
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
and perhaps even more importantly, we are taught to pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. Ironically, it seems that while we cannot give that which we have not received, we are filled with mercy ourselves only by giving it away. Mercy cannot be held. It can only flow through vessels.
How have you received mercy?
How have you shared that mercy?