Sermon notes from September 29, 1991″And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)
Even sinners, atheists, non-believers, the greedy, perverts, etc, might behave decently toward others like themselves. You don’t have to be an Orthodox Christian to do this. You don’t become an Orthodox Christian to do this. You can behave this way even if you never come to Church.
We are the disciples of the Master, Jesus. He not only taught us to go far beyond the decency of the world, He demonstrated by His way of life how we are to live. Jesus not only loved his disciples, He loved and forgave those who crucified Him, He loved and forgave the thief on the cross, He loved and forgave Peter who denied Him, and Judas who betrayed Him. God is truly good even to the ungrateful and to the wicked.
Bottom line is mercy – being merciful.
Being merciful is part of God’s wisdom as versus the wisdom of the world, which empasizes competition, getting ahead, looking out for yourself.
Mercy is a readiness to do good and to forgive. Mercy is not just a one time act, it is a way of life.
Mercy means help, love, consideration of the other’s need
Because God loves us, we are to be merciful.
Let us look at some writing of the early church fathers about this way of life which encompasses mercy. The early Christians formed INTENTIONAL Christian communities – communities which were wholly devoted to the Christian way of life.
Abba Anthony said, “A man’s life or death comes from his neighbor; if we benefit our brother, we benefit ourselves, but if we offend him, we sin against God.”
Jesus taught us a way of life, it involves loving one another, washing each other’s feet, doing to others as you would have them do to you, being merciful to others, the Good Samaritan, bearing the burdens of others, the exchange of the kiss of peace in Liturgy. Look around you, your salvation is in your neighbor and how you treat them. For this is the basis on which God is going to Judge you.
There is a story from the desert fathers of an old monk, who worked hard by weaving baskets. A young monk asks to become his disciple and throughout his life steals from the old monk. So the old man is forced to work harder. He knows who the thief is. In humility, in mercy, because of self-sacrifice and the Cross, he says nothing to the monk. The old monk is on his death bed and the community assembles around him as death approaches. The old man calls for the young monk. The monk comes forward fearing he will be exposed and the community which also knows of the young man’s misdeeds awaits his just criticism. Instead, the dying monk kisses the hand of his thieving young disciple and says, “you will be my salvation.”
“What?” we might ask. Why would the thief be the saintly and patient old man’s salvation? Isn’t it going to be the other way around – the saint will save the sinner?
The story’s moral though is that the old man treated the young monk the way the elder wanted to be treated and judged by God – with patience, with love, in mercy. He did to another what he hoped would be done to him: he showed him mercy.
A last story from the desert fathers:
Young monk, asks: “If a brother asks me to do something for him purely out of love, and I am really inconvenienced by it, should I do it?”
The Elder answers, ” If you can do it without getting angry or demanding repayment, do it. God will accept it as a sacrifice from you. But if you are going to be angry, bear a grudge, or demand a favor in return, don’t do it. There is no advantage to you in that. If you decide to do it, take heed, your soul, your eternal life is on the line.
The fathers were eminently practical. The Christian way is hard, but it is not impossible. Do everything in love, with mercy, treating others with respect, as you would want them to treat you.