To be a missionary of mercy, you must have clear vision, a good heart and a solid foundation.
Clear vision. (Verses 37-42)
With this memorable illustration of a man walking around with a log sticking out of his eye, offering to help others with the specks in their own eyes, Jesus gives us three aspects of clear vision.
Proportion. It’s all too easy to fixate on the faults and failings of others while minimizing our own mistakes. Jesus calls us to turn the telescope around. You may be very focused on the failings of your spouse at home, but have you considered what you yourself have brought to your marriage? It’s easy to see the problems on the other side of the political divide, but how about the condition of your own camp? To follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, we must learn to put the focus on ourselves.
Priority. Before we can help others change, we must learn to grow ourselves. What good is a person who can’t even see the log in their own eye to those carrying small specks in their eye? The servants of Christ’s kingdom must come to terms with the depth of their own sin. The more I pursue Christ the more painfully aware I become of my sin. If God gave me what I deserve, I would receive nothing but judgment. Thanks be to God that Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it! Praise God that he is merciful as well as just. The gospel of Christ’s kingdom brings me face to face with myself and in facing my own sin I learn the mercy that makes me useful to others.
Perspective. Jesus shows me the logs I carry in my own eye. His own eye was spotless. Yet he had his own log, didn’t he? Soon Jesus would go on from the plains to the mountaintop, carrying a log of suffering and shame. Along the way he would be beaten, mocked, spit on and publicly shamed. As he hung there on that log he would look over the faces of those responsible for his sorrows and pray for their forgiveness. This is mercy. He hung from the log of shame for me and the log in my eye. This monumental scene of mercy becomes the backdrop which frames the mission of God. Do you see it? Do you see your marriage in light of that mountain? Do you see your neighbor, your coworker, your political enemies in the light of that moment of mercy?
This is clarity of vision. Proportion. Priority. Perspective.
A Good Heart (43-45)
Jesus brings us to the next quality of a missionary of mercy with two pictures. A tree which bears fruit according to its nature. And a heart which overflows into the world according to its nurture.
Nature. A tree produces the fruit that is written into its DNA. A fig tree produces figs. It can produce no other. If you are going to produce good fruit in this world, you must have a good nature. If your DNA isn’t good, how will you produce good fruit? The Bible tells us that we are sinful from birth and that if we live according to our natural state, every good fruit we produce will be tainted with sin. How is a sinful man like me going to produce good fruit? Only through the transformative power of the gospel! The gospel of the kingdom isn’t simply a call to different behavior. It’s an invitation to a different being. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation! To become a Christian is to be made from the inside out in the image of God!
If you have not yet made a decision of the will to trust in Christ and follow Him in His mission, there is nothing more important for you than to do that now. Turn from your sin, trust in Jesus and you will receive a new heart.
Nurture. Objectively, my identity as a Christian is determined by the new nature given to me through work of Christ on the cross and the Holy Spirit in my heart. Functionally, on a daily basis, my identity is determined by nurture. My daily life will be determined by my heart. My heart will be determined by the things I have put into my heart. “The mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart.” The output of your life is determined by the input in your heart. What are you putting into your heart these days?
To be a fruitful missionary of mercy, we need hearts full of goodness and mercy. We need hearts full of the Word of God. One reason so many Christians are not active in the field of mission is because they are not paying attention to the input of their souls. The average American consumes about 7 hours per day of screen time. Hours of television, social media and surfing the superficial offerings of the internet. How much time do you think the average American Christian spends in the Bible? If you put 7 hours of godless media and 5 minutes of the Bible in your heart – what do you think is going to come out?
Let me give you a challenge. What if you made an experiment this week – at the end of each day, rather than unwinding on the couch with Netflix, you made a decision to spend your last hours filling your heart with good things – reading the Bible, listening to worship music, watching The Chosen. Do you think you would notice a difference in your heart? Would you notice a difference in your speech? Would your marriage be different?
Why not give it a try? It’s just one week.
A Solid Foundation (Verses 46-49)
The final image Jesus gives us is the construction of a home. We see two homes, two types of foundation, one storm and two very different results. One home is built on a foundation dug down deep and made of solid rock. The other home is simply thrown up on unprepared ground. When a storm comes through the result is predictable. Storms will come your way in life. How will the life you are building weather those storms?
What use will you be to others if your home is in ruins?
There are a variety of foundations we can build our lives upon.
We can build on the maxims that are passed down in family tradition.
We can build on the principles passed out by social media influencers.
We can build on the dictates of our own desires.
Jesus invites us to dig down deep and find a much firmer foundation – the Word of God.
But the foundation isn’t simply the Word of God is it? The foundation is the doing of the Word.
Jesus marveled at the way his followers affirmed his teaching and put no attention to the actual practice of his teachings. Why do you call me Lord on Sunday and go about your week doing nothing that I say? “You are not doing the things I have told you to do. You are doing the things I have told you not to do. Why then, do you call me Lord?”
There is a hard challenge in those words. We must either quit calling Him Lord, or we must do what the Lord commands.
The person whose life is build on a foundation of doing the Word of God is able to provide a refuge for those weathering life’s storms. How is your foundation?
Clear vision. A Good heart. A solid foundation.
Do you feel inadequate? Do you see a log in your eye this morning? Do you feel that your heart is full of mixed input? Maybe the winds of life have left the structures of your life damaged and shaken.
Working through this passage brings me back around to the starting point, in verse 36. Be merciful – keep a clear eye, a good heart and a solid foundation – why? Because your father in heaven is merciful.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Come with me to the mountain top. Look with me to the logs that hold our savior. Hear with me those merciful words – “Father forgive them.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown