Our theme verse has within it so many encouraging thoughts, none though as strong as these words, “His mercies never come to an end…” Mercy; that is, God not giving mankind what he deserves, is at the very core of all we do as Christians. If there is one thing mankind could extend to one another lately, is mercy. Not retaliating in kind, being “slow to speak, slow to wrath” and a little more willing to be “swift to hear” (James 1:19).
Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice,
Lord, do not charge them with this sin.
Many of us are familiar with the story of Stephen, one of the early “gospel preachers” of the new found church. Some didn’t like his message and stirred up trouble for him (Acts 6:8-15). Brought before the council, he is provided the chance to speak and does so, challenging his hearers, those who should have been prepared for the Messiah, yet rejected Him and His message of hope. So enraged, they took Stephen out and stoned him to death, but not until he said those words mentioned above. Stephen’s last act of faith was to extend mercy to his accusers, to those taking his life.
I don’t expect any of us to find ourselves in such a situation, but that does not mean we won’t be challenged to extend mercy to those around us. How did Stephen muster up the spiritual strength to utter such words, especially given the situation? I believe Jesus reveals the “how” in the parable of the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. First, there is need to be aware of our debt towards the Master as seen in the first servant. He owed his master 10,000 talents (about 60,000,000 denarii). A denarii, was a day’s wages back then, so the debt was impossible to pay back. The master demands payment, but the servant pleads for mercy. “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). Imagine the relief! With renewed life, the servant goes out only to find a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii. Mercy received sets the stage for mercy being given…right? Not necessarily. Unchanged by what was freely given to him, he demands payment from his fellow servant. Unmoved by his plea for mercy, he “threw him into prison till he should pay the debt” (Matthew 18:30). Once his master heard of this, he became angry and “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him” (Matthew 18:34).
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you,
if from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
How did Stephen extend so much mercy towards those taking his life? I believe part of the answer is found in the mercy extended to him through Christ. He knew his debt was paid and he was not deserving of it. That empowered him to offer it to others equally in need of it. How many of us lock people up in the prison of our mind, burdened with the debt of their sinful behavior towards us? God calls for us to extend mercy, be forgiving, like He has been towards us. His mercies never come to an end, in part, because we as His disciples offer it to others. Who in your life is in need of your mercy?