August 19, 2017

Mercy is the Highest Form Of Love (Proper 20)

Jesus is teaching us how to do pastoral ministry. The readings teach us that God wants more than a formal relationship with us. God wants a passionate, powerful risk-taking love that is passionate, intimate and forgives. Mercy, when God or we forgive, and give the other another chance, is the highest form of love. The difficulties we face in life are teats of that love. This is how our love and spiritual life grows.


 1. Jesus shows us how God’s love and mercy never gives up

Jesus had righteous anger (the good kind) at the Pharisees for developing new teachings that deliberately miss-interpreted God’s Commandments. They focused on the outward details of food and washing, rather than what goes on in the heart. They reduced love of God, self and neighbour to self-serving rituals. Jesus warns His followers to avoid “false teachers” that try to introduce teachings that contradict Scripture:

  • ·         We are to “Leave them; they are blind guides” (v14). 
  • ·         Instead of what goes into our mouths (the physical) we are to focus on 'what come out of a man’s mouth” (the spiritual) (Matthew 15.11). 
  • ·         What we say and do indicates what is really in our heart. 
  • ·         The test is when things go wrong - are we really loving, or do we explode in anger?
  • ·         God's mercy is unending - no matter how much we have done to separate ourselves from God; Gods’ love and mercy never gives up!


2. Jesus was really testing the love of the Canaanite Woman

He really insulted her. Most people would have left. But she persisted. She was really desperate for her daughter. Her love for her daughter was greater than her pride. She is willing to fight with Jesus for His attention. This is exactly the kind of passionate love relationship God wants with us. God does not want “cold love”. God wants hot, passionate love - the kind of love that would drive an uneducated woman to challenge a respected rabbi and the established teachings of the Pharisees in public. 

  • She tells Jesus (and the Pharisee in all of us), that this idea of God is too unloving. 
  • This does not offend Jesus. He is testing her, pushing her
  • He commends her passionate love of God and her faith to us. 
  • God tests all of us with adversity, sickness, losses
  • God reaches out and shakes us up - not to hurt us, but to force us to grow in love as we realize His mercy is without limit

 3. Jacob could easily have given up on his brothers

They had treated him very badly. They had ruined his life by selling him into slavery. Jacob, like many of us, could easily have become bitter. He could have spent the rest of his life brooding over his situation. He could have allowed himself to be eaten up with anger, bitterness and un-forgiveness. The number of people Lucille and I have helped get out of bondage to un-forgiveness is amazing!

  • ·         Joseph chose to have mercy on his brothers
  • ·         In jail he had mercy and helped the other prisoners. 
  • ·         As ruler of Egypt he had mercy on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt
  • ·         Having already forgiven his brothers, he had mercy on them
  • ·         God is trying to teach us all to have mercy on ourselves and others

Jesus is Teaching Us How to do Pastoral Ministry With Love

All of us at some time have felt abandoned by God or that God did not love us. This is of course Satan’s lie. Jesus is teaching us to do healing ministry with love:

  • When we feel abandoned, it is a sign that we are being tested. 
  • Our love of God is being tested.
  • Our love of our self is being tested
  • Our love of our neighbour is being tested
  • What comes out of our mouth?
  • Is it judgement and un-forgiveness?
  • Is it love in the form of mercy?

There was a Canaanite woman. She was not included in the Covenant of Moses. But she was desperate to save her daughter from a demon. 


What came out of her mouth was love in its highest form – loving God and her daughter enough to overcome pride, challenge Jesus and ask for mercy.