“Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
The word for mercy that Jesus uses here has a more concrete meaning than what we typically associate with mercy. It means more than just being kind. It means to be concerned about your neighbor’s state and well-being. Thus, Jesus taught that we are to care, to be concerned about our neighbor’s state and well-being even as our Father in heaven cares for and is concerned about our state and well-being.
How has our Father in heaven cared for our state? How has He shown His concern for our well-being? How has He showered this mercy upon us?
He gave of Himself. He sent His only-begotten Son in human flesh, to become one of us—a man—and to suffer all that we suffer and to endure what we endure—a fallen world full of sinful people, temptation, the attacks of the devil, and death.
He took upon Himself what rightfully belongs to us—sin and death—in order that He could give to us what rightfully belongs to Him—righteousness, purity, eternal life, and victory over the temptation of Satan and this fallen world. That is how He cared for our state. That is how He was concerned for our well-being.
He entered into our state for the sake of our well-being, died in our place, rose for our justification, redeemed us to make all things new. He entered our state so that by water and His Word we would be granted entrance into His state as children of our Father in heaven. In other words, He had empathy toward us, which resulted in true sympathy.
Jesus, therefore, calls the church to empathy and sympathy for her neighbors. “Be merciful even as your Father in heaven is merciful.” He asks the church to give of herself, to enter into her neighbors’ state for their well-being. And the church gives of herself the only thing in her that is worth giving.
As the Body of Christ, she gives Christ to her neighbors. She gives out the same mercy that she has received. She gives the mercy that the heavenly Father poured out upon her through the sending of His Son. And she does it through the preaching of the forgiveness of sins in Word and Deed, in Word and Sacrament. For this is how the church lives—in the forgiveness of sins received in the means of grace—and, therefore, this is what the church does. What else can she do?
And since this is how the church lives and what the church does, this is likewise how Christians live and what Christians do. That is why giving to the church is so important. It ensures that the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in Word and Deed continues. It ensures that our neighbors’ state and well-being is cared for and attended to. It ensures that our neighbors have access to our heavenly Father’s mercy just as we have received it here in time for all eternity.
Therefore, I say, let us be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful.