“Be merciful just as your Father also is merciful.” This is what Jesus requires of you. But it’s not easy. Mercy requires that you always act for your neighbor’s welfare without considering yourself. Mercy demands that you seek only to serve others. Mercy insists that you be quick to forgive, slow to get angry. It demands that you bear no grudges. Mercy teaches you to suffer undeserved punishment quietly, to shoulder the blame for wrongs you have not done—and even wrongs that have been done to you. Mercy orders you to love the unlovable, to help those who abuse you, and to reach out to those who spitefully and meanly mistreat you.
That is what your heavenly Father has done for you. That is what our Lord Jesus endured for your sake. That is how the Holy Spirit deals with you. You were not turned away from the waters of baptism. And even though you continue to abuse God’s kindness, He does not refuse to forgive your sins. And the Holy Spirit still gathers you within the Church, still invites you to pray to the Father, and still allows you to partake of God when you turn to Him in repentant faith. In fact, the Lord eagerly waits to embrace you, to shower you with the riches of His mercy—riches you don’t deserve.
Do you see, then, how mercy goes? Mercy requires you to lose yourself entirely, to give yourself over to another—even a stranger—without any hesitation, without any question, without any fear, without any vengeance, without any thought for your own well-being. After all, that is what our Lord Jesus did. And He is the Mercy of God in the flesh. But who can “be merciful just as your Father is merciful?” Does that not ask the impossible? Does that not demand that you somehow become like God?
That is precisely the point. Our Lord is not demanding that you be something you cannot be. He is not commanding you to change yourself from imperfection to perfection. He is not ordering you to change from creature to Creator, or from human to divine. Rather, our Lord is urging you to become more and more what you already are.
And who are you really? By God’s grace, you are a child of the heavenly Father. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, you are born of God. And by the kindness of the Holy Spirit, you are no longer a child of disobedience, a child of fear, a child of rebellion, a child of slavery to sin and death. Instead, you been freed to live in holiness and righteousness. You have been delivered to live without fear of being short-changed or abused. You have been rescued to live as you ought to live. You have been freed by the Spirit to live the mercy that Jesus lives in you.
So Jesus is saying that you should become merciful, just as God your Father has been merciful and gracious towards you. Become as merciful as Jesus has been to you. He became what you are. The Son of God joined your death-riddled, sin-filled flesh to His holy and life-giving divinity. In the unity of His Person, He joined God and Man, joining you to Himself. He did this so that in His Body you would become what you can never be apart from Him: so that you would become the mercy that He is.
So become merciful—that is what the Mercy of God urges you to be. Become merciful—that is what the Spirit of Mercy invites and implores you to be. Become merciful—that is why Mercy died and rose, why He ascended, why He then descended into the font and continues to descend upon this altar in His body and blood. Our Lord Jesus comes to you in His Supper so that you would become the person He died for you to be: a child of the Father who resists the evil spirit of revenge, who strives in Christ Jesus to live the spirit of patience and love that He has graciously given to you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.