Thursday, 16 August 2018

A Heart That Sees God. ~ Ganeida.

The next characteristic in our study of the Beatitudes is Purity of Heart.  The word for pure in Greek is katharos [clean, pure, unsoiled]the concept is brought forward from the Old Testament ideas of ritual cleanliness, such as handwashing, but I will give you 2 instances where the ritual symbol & moral integrity are united to show God's ultimate purpose.

Isaiah 52:11 from Youngs Literal Translation: Turn aside, turn aside, go out thence, The unclean touch not, go out from her midst, Be ye pure, who are bearing the weapons of Jehovah.

Psalm 24:3~4: [NASB] Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.

The Book of Common Prayer in its General Confession puts it this way:

Most merciful God, 
we confess that we have sinned against you 
in thought, word, and deed, 
by what we have done, 
and by what we have left undone. 
We have not loved you with our whole heart; 
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 

There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission.  Both have their root in the selfishness of the human heart.  It is not only our actions that reveal who we truly are & what we truly believe: our thoughts & words also betray us.

Once again Jesus is stressing it is not only our outward actions that matter.  Nor is it simply a matter of our will & our mind.   It is a matter of our core values, those things we hold closest to our heart.

We mentioned last week the discrepancy in the divorce rate between Christians & Jews.  The key difference we identified lay in our expectations.  Western culture teaches us to get what we can; Judaism stresses what we can give. Thus we have books like: The Art of The Deal, t.v shows like Survivor, quips like: You're the weakest link!  It takes real mindfulness to stop & reverse this sort of thinking that preys on the weak & seeks to manipulate even the strongest for it's own advantage.

The writer to the Hebrews stresses the importance of our heart position when he states:  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:[12:14]

There is a most delicate balancing act in this study.  On one hand Jesus is explicitly calling us to action.  On the other, none of it is possible without the grace of God.  It is God who initiates, God who enables, God who strengthens us when we falter.

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure. [Philippians 2:13]

I remind you again holiness is not an abstract word, as it seems in English.  It simply means to be set apart for the purposes of God.  Our actions may not always be pure, moral, right, but we ourselves are holy because we have been set apart by God for His plans & purposes.  Part of becoming pure is to come into agreement with God by setting ourselves apart from worldly things that God might use us for Kingdom purposes.

It is not very popular any more, but the Christian life has always been a disciplined life.  We receive, as gifts freely given, salvation, grace, forgiveness, mercy & probably the most heartfelt & honest prayer is: "Help!" Help to be who God sees us as.  Help to do what God calls us to do.  Help to be what God calls us to be.  He has equipped us with everything we need through His Holy Spirit to walk the walk & mature in the Christian life but He only leads step by step.  We have to follow. If we simply sit on our laurels content to be saved but progressing no further then our relationship with God will never grow & deepen ~ & we will never see Him!

Now I don't think this means we won't see Him in Heaven simply because nothing impure can enter Heaven but we are warned in 1st Corinthians 3:13~ 15: [NLT] But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Everything Jesus was teaching was about building the Kingdom of God.  This is the work He left for us to do, whether it is casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching the word, practising mercy, giving alms, prayer....whatever it is, if it is done with wrong motives, with an impure heart, it will not benefit either us or the Kingdom of God & worse it will make it much more difficult for us to Hear & experience God.  It is absolutely essential that we agree with the Holy Spirit on this one for He will reveal to us the path in which we need to walk.

John tells us that God is Light ~ & in Him there is no darkness at all.  Just think about that for a moment. The Father is Light without darkness.  Jesus is light without darkness.  The Holy Spirit is light without darkness.  Are you beginning to see?  Do you understand?  God's Holy Spirit, His Light, His Truth, is in you but when you defile yourself with an impure heart you bring darkness into your Holy Place.  The darkness cannot extinguish the light but it can obscure your ability to see & understand the heart of God.

If you truly want to know God better & experience more of His presence then purity of heart is essential.  Nor is this primarily a moral position regarding sexuality, though that is included.  It covers all aspects of our relationships.  It calls us to radical servanthood toward others. It severs the tap root of our selfishness, our need to control & be in control.  It allows us to rest.  We have no hidden agendas. We attain the *single eye*, looking to Christ & Him alone.

Sometimes these concepts can be very difficult to grasp hold of & get right down into our spirit.  We understand with our intellect but we live in a world that doesn't abide by these precepts.  Many of us have never seen them lived out.  We don't really know what they look like in action so we struggle apply them.  This is where stories can sometimes help us, so I am going to tell you a story.  It is not my story & I don't have time to tell all of it but you can find it in The Friendly Persuasion by the Quaker short story writer Jessamyn West.  It is called Homer & the Lillies. It begins like this:

When Jess was 80 years old, somewhat gnarled, but still a very sturdy man, he came to know for a short time an asylum~boy as he was called, by the name of Homer Denham.

The story continues, describing the friendship between this 80 year old man & 12 year old boy as they fish, discuss whether mice can run backwards, & wonder @ the ways of the world. There is a catch though.  If you are a parent or a teacher you will know it: he push to always teach & correct, so  when Homer plucks 1/2 a dozen of Eliza's prized lily~of~the valleys Jess rebukes him ~ & everything he says is absolutely true: the flowers belong to Eliza; Homer has no right to touch them but...He didn't doubt he's done the right thing...still, doing the right thing shouldn't leave such an ache under the breastbone... Jess resolves to sort things with Homer but before He can do so a storm flattens the flowers & keeps Jess from doing what he had set his mind to do.  

When he can finally leave the house he picks some of the lilies for Homer & sets off, half expecting to meet Homer on the way, but he is too late.  Homer, never very strong, has died & the are flowers piled with all the others to soften, but not hide what the trestle had been set up to bear.

Jess is not only a deeply religious man, he is a philosophical man ~ & ruminating on what's happened he says to Eliza: I'm 80 years old.  All my life I've been trying one way or another to do people good.  Whether that was right or not, I don't know, but it comes over me now that I'm excused from all that.  I loved Homer, but I tried to do him good...the way I see it now, that was wrong, that was where I's led astray.  From now on, Eliza, I don't figure there's a thing asked of me but to love my fellow man."

As we go through these Beatitudes that comes closest to the heart of the matter.  They are teaching us how to love: to love God & to love our fellow man.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Faith as Fruit ~ Rabqa

Today we are going to be looking at faith as fruit. Last time we saw how faith operates as one of the
nine spiritual gifts listed by Paul in 1Corinthians 12:7-11. Now we will see how faith functions as one of spiritual fruit that Paul listed in Galatians 5:22-23 N L T) 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

These virtues are characterised as fruit in contrast to works. Only the Holy Spirit can produce them, & not our own efforts. Another contrast is that, whereas the works of the flesh are plural, the fruit of the spirit is one & indivisible. When the Spirit controls the life of the believer, He produces all of these graces. The first three concern our attitude towards God, the second triad deals with social relationships, & the third group describe principals that guide a Christian’s conduct.

The seventh form of fruit listed is faith. Other versions of the Bible offer a variety of translation for this word, such as faithfulness (as does the N L T which I have read from) fidelity & trustfulness. But the Greek noun is pistis AS we saw in Faith versus sight, this is the basic word for faith throughout the New Testament.

Before we look at this particular form of fruit I think it will be helpful to consider the relationship between gifts & fruit in General.

Picture a Christmas tree & an apple tree side by side. I am talking of a Christmas tree on which presents are tied. It is a common practice in some places to tie gifts on to the tree instead of placing them under the tree. In this way, a Christmas tree bears gifts while an apple tree bears fruit.

In the case of the Christmas, a gift is both attached to it & removed from it by a single, brief act. The gift may be a garment & the tree may be a fir tree. There is no direct connection between the tree & the gift. The gift does not tell us anything about the nature of the tree which it is taken.

On the other hand there is a direct connection between an apple tree & the tree that bears it. The nature of the tree determines the nature of the fruit, both its kind & its quality. An apple tree can never bear oranges. A healthy tree will bear healthy fruit; an unhealthy tree will bear unhealthy fruit. Matthew 7:17-20 NLT. A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Jesus teaches in verse 20 that we will know people by their fruit. Let me encourage you to examine your own fruit to see if it is good. I did that in my own life & discovered I was like an apple tree that sat all day saying “I am an apple tree” but I never produced any apples. Believers often carry outward signs of their Christianity is an attempt to share their faith. Bumper stickers on vehicles is a good example. These signs say that the drivers are Christians, but what kind of fruit do they bear in traffic? Are they obeying the speed limit? How do they react to other drivers especially those who cut them off in traffic? Thai actions are true signs of who they are. We may carry big Bibles, wear Christian jewellery & display large collections of Christian’s books in our homes. Yet still not producing any good fruit. We must be concerned about producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is concerned with that . One of His main purposes is making us His home is to continually work His fruit in us & display it through us.

We must want to follow Christ’s pattern. The more we develop the attributes that characterised Jesus-love, concern & compassion-the more we will need the same gifts that He exercised in order to give practical expression to these attributes. The more fully we are equipped with these gifts, the greater our ability will be to glorify God our Father, just as Jesus did.

So we see that fruit is an expression of character. When all nine forms of spiritual fruit are present & fully developed, they represent the totality of Christian character, each form of fruit satisfying a specific need & each complementing the rest. Within this totality, the fruit of faith may be viewed from two aspects. These two aspects correspond to two different but related uses of the Greek word pistis. The first is trust; & the second is trustworthiness.

The first aspect of faith as a fruit is trust. The Jerusalem Bible translates pistis as trustfulness. Jesus could not emphasis enough that one of the requirements for all who would enter the kingdom of heaven is to become like a little child (Matthew 18:1-3; 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-15; Luke: 18:15-17.) There is probably no quality more distinctively characteristic of childhood than trustfulness. & yet, paradoxically, it is a quality that is seen at its perfection in the most mature men of God-men like Abraham, Moses, David & Paul. We may conclude, therefore, that the degree to which we cultivate trustfulness is a good measure of our spiritual maturity.

More fully, the fruit of faith- in this aspect of trustfulness-may be defined as a quite, steady unwavering trust in goodness, wisdom & faithfulness of God. No matter what trials or seeming disasters may be encountered, the person who has cultivated this form of fruit remains calm& restful in the midst of them all. He has an unshakable confidence that God is still in complete control of every situation & that, in & through all circumstances, God is working out His own purpose of blessing for each one of His children.

The outward expression of this kind of trust is stability. We see that David beautifully pictured this
Psalm 125:1 Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.

God is for us; He is on our side (Psalm 118:6). The devil has one position; he is against us. But God is over us, for us & He surrounds us. So like Mount Zion we should not be moved, because God is all around us.

All of earths mountains may tremble & shake & even be totally removed, all except one Mount Zion can never be moved. God has chosen it for His own dwelling place, & it alone will abide forever.

When the believer has learnt to trust, others around them may give way to panic & confusion, but he remains calm & secure. His foundation is in the holy mountains ( Psalm 87:1).

Know with every part of your being that you are safe in the Lords hands; this the key to the kind of trust; Be committed to Him.

God will answer our prayers in His timing, it isn’t always instant; recently I had a bad cold so I prayed for healing using my favourite Scriptures excepting at the worse to have to wait three to four days as that is what I have come to expect from Him if I am sick, but no this time it took about ten days; God is always faithful & just, He will remain true to His promises. Our ability to receive is the influence of prayers offered on our behalf, but a large measure is due to attitude of trust.

In Psalm 37:5 David said: Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. I have learnt that letting God give me something is so much better than trying to get it for myself. Most of us struggle greatly with our lives trying to make things happen that only God can do. He wants us to seek Him, & He promises that He will add the things we desire if & when the time is right.

The act of commitment leads to the attitude of trust. David assured us that as long as we
continue in this attitude of trust God is working out the thing we have committed to Him (in my case it was healing). It is the continual attitude of trust on our part that keeps the channel open through which God is able to intervene in our lives & work out what needs to be done. But if we abandon our trust, we then close the door & hinder the completion of what God has begun to do for us.

Committing a matter to the Lord is like taking cash to the bank & depositing it into your account. Once you have received the teller’s receipt for your deposit, you no longer need to be concerned about the safety of your money. That is now the banks responsibility, not yours. It is so ironic that some people have no difficulity trusting the bank to take care of the money they have desposited find it much harder to trust God concerning some vital personal matter that they have committed to Him.

The example of the bank deposit illustrates one important factor in making a successful commitment. When you walk out of the bank, you carry an official receipt, showing the date, the
place & the amount you deposited. There are no uncertainties. In the same way, you need to be equally specific concerning those things you commit to God. You need to know without a shadow of doubt, both what you have committed & when & where the commitment was made. You also need the Holy Spirit’s official receipt, acknowledging that God has accepted your commitment.

Trust is like all forms of fruit: It needs to be cultivated, & it passes through various stages of development before it reaches full maturity. The development of trust is well illustrated by the words of David in Psalm 62:2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken. Now in verse 6 he said I shall not be shaken. Between verse 2& verse 6, David progresses from not being greatly shaken to not being shaken at all.

We need to be honest with ourselves as was David. Before our trust has come to maturity, the beat that we can say is “I will not be greatly shaken!” to not been shaken at all. At this stage trouble & opposition will shake us, but they will not overcome us. However, if we continue to cultivate our trust, we will come to the stage where we can say “I will not be shaken at all!” Nothing will be able to shake us any longer-much less overcome us.

Trust of this kind is in the realm of the spirit rather than the emotions. We may turn once more to the personal testimony of David In Psalm 56:3 he said: But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. When you are tempted to be afraid, choose to trust the Lord as an act of your will, not as response to your emotions. Practice a determined praise filled refusal to be afraid.

Faith is a conscious choice to act on what God says is true, not some passive response of the Christian to his circumstances. Like everything else, faith requires to grow & become strong. Faith comes from Gods Word illumined by the Holy Spirit & released acts of obedience. Faith requires a singleness of commitment that draws us from doubt & wavering.

Trust, in its full maturity, is beautiful shown in the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:12. That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him[a] until the day of his return.

By worldly standards, Paul was a failure. Some of his most influential friends & supporters had turned against him. Of all of his close co-workers, only Luke remained with him. One of his co-workers Demas had actually abandoned him & turned back to the world. Paul was weak & aged in chains in a Roman prison, waiting for an unjust trial & execution at the hands of a cruel depraved despot. But his words rang with serene, unshakable confidence in 2 Timothy 4:8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

AS it was with David, so it was with Paul: Trust was the outcome of an act of commitment. His commitment is expressed in his own words: He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him. (2 Timothy 1:12). Trusting was the result of entrusting. Years previously, Paul had made an irrevocable commitment of himself to Christ. Out of this, subsequent trials & sufferings gradually brought forth an ever deepening trust that had come to its full fruition in a Roman dungeon, its radiance all the brighter in contrast to its gloomy setting.

Now we will look at the second part of faith as a fruit; trustworthiness. Linguistically, trustworthiness is in fact, the original meaning of pistis. In Arndt & Gingrich’s standard lexicon of the New Testament Greek, the specific definition given of pistis is faithfulness, reliability, if we go back to the Old Testament; the same meaning applies to the Hebrew word for faith-emunah. Its primary meaning is faithfulness; its secondary meaning is faith. The verb from which it is derived gives us the word amen-so be it, let it be confirmed. The root meaning is firm reliable.

Both meanings alike-trust & trustworthiness-converge in the person & nature of God. If we view
faith as trust, its only ultimate basis is God’s trustworthiness. If we view faith as trustworthiness, it is only through our trust that the Holy Spirit is able to impart God’s trustworthiness to us. God is both the beginning & the end of faith. His trustworthiness is the only basis for our trust; our trust in Him reproduces His trustworthiness in us.

Probably no attribute of God is more persistently emphasised throughout the Scriptures than His trustworthiness. In the Old Testament, there is one special Hebrew word reserved for the attribute: chesed. In the English versions of the Bible, this word is variously translated goodness, kindness loving kindness, mercy & so on. However, not one of these translations fully expresses its meaning.

There are two distinctive features of God’s chesed, or trustworthiness. First, it is the expression of God’s free unmerited grace. It goes beyond anything that man can ever deserve or demand as right. Second it is always based on a covenant that God voluntarily enters into. We may combine these features by saying that chesed is God’s trustworthiness in fulfilling His covenant
commitments, which beyond anything that we can deserve or demand.

So we find a close connection between the following three important Hebrew concepts: emunah, faith or faithfulness; chesed, God’s trustworthiness; & berith, which means a covenant. These three Hebrew words form a recurrent theme in a series of verses in Psalm 89:24 & my faithfulness [emunach] & my loving kindness [chesed] will be with him.

My loving kindness [chesed] I will keep for him forever, & my covenant [berith] shall be confirmed. Verse 28 & in verses 33-34 But I will not break off my loving kindness [chesed] from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness [emunah]. My covenant [berith] I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips.

The last verse brings out a special relationship between God’s trustworthiness & the words of His mouth. There are two things God will never do: break His covenant or go back on what He has said. God’s trustworthiness, imparted by the Holy Spirit, will reproduce the same characteristic in us, It will make us people of unfailing integrity & honest.

In Psalm 15:1 David asked two questions. Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? In the verse that follow he answers his own questions by listing eleven characteristics that mark a person of integrity. The ninth requirement is listed at the end of verse four. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honour the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts. God expects the believer to be true to His commitments, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. The world has its own way of saying this: “A man is as good as his word.” A Christian who does not honour his word & keep his commitments has not yet developed the fruit of trustworthiness.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Do not be deceived by jargon or religiosity. Look for true spiritual power & godliness in others.

One with spiritual wisdom possesses spiritual perception & a wise value system. He realises that any theological quarrelling is unproductive & refuses to be drawn into it rather, he learns gently to persuade others to godliness, not being easily deceived by feigned godly behaviour. He also recognises the human tendency to avoid the demands of truth & to listen, rather, to do what they want to hear.

Today we have seen spiritual fruits differ from spiritual gifts in two main ways. First, a spiritual gift can be both imparted & received by a single, brief transaction; fruit must be cultivated & by a continuing process that requires time, skill & labour. Second, gifts are not directly related to the character of those who exercise them; fruit is an expression of character. Ideally, fruit & gifts should balance one another in a combination that glorifies God.

As a form of fruit, faith may be understood in two distinct but related ways: as trust & as trustworthiness.

Stability is a manifestation of trust, & it increases as trust matures. Stability requires an initial act of commitment. Entrusting leads to trusting.

Our trust is based on God’s trustworthiness, or chesed. God demonstrates His trustworthiness towards us by fulfilling His covenant commitments, which go beyond anything we deserve or demand. In turn, God’s trustworthiness makes us the kind of people who are willing & able to enter into & maintain covenant commitments, both with God & with one another.

Acknowledgements Derek Prince

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Quality of Mercy. ~ Ganeida

Today we are going to look @ Matthew 5 verse 7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall
obtain mercy.

Mercy is an attribute of one's character.  In Greek the word used is eleeĊ ~  defined as:

  1. to have mercy on
  2. to help one afflicted or seeking aid
  3. to help the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched
  4. to experience mercy
And that seems relatively simple.  Many of our Good Deeds would fall under the heading of Being Merciful.  Mercy was embedded in Jewish Law & Tradition & as such was passed down into the Christian tradition but the one thing we know about Jesus & the Law is that His interpretation of it was radical, life~changing & far more about the heart that it was about outward behaviour.   

It is not then surprising to find there are 4 different Hebrew words & 6 Greek ones that are variously translated as Compassion/mercy.  The Hebrew word that interests us is: râcham.  It means to love deeply.  I believe this is the underlying principle Jesus is addressing because it is perfectly possible to act mercifully but in such a way people are repulsed  & if you think that is not true consider our English word *charity*.  Charity was the word typically translated from agape ~ the God sort of love ~ but it has come to mean a cold, heartless action motivated by duty rather than love & has almost completely fallen out of modern usage.

It is perfectly possible to do the right thing with the wrong motive  but the defining characteristic of the Kingdom of God is love, because God Himself is love & so we must never assume Jesus words are merely addressing our actions.  God is far more interested in our character development than we are.

What's more, it is an uniquely God characteristic & so when we practice mercy we are demonstrating to the world that we are indeed God's children.  I say this because, if you have studied any history at all you know that William Barclay got it right: 
A Christ~less world is a callous world, and mercy was never a characteristic of pagan life.

This quality of mercy is best understood if we go to 1st Corinthians 13 & look at the characteristics that define love, as Paul understands it: kindness, patience, civility, humility...this is love in action.  This is how love behaves towards the stranger, the immigrant, the disabled, the young.  It is also how love behaves towards those who wrong us, gossip about us, slander us, treat us with contempt, steal from us, abuse us.  The Kingdom dynamics are radical.

Jesus said: "If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." [Luke 6:33]  Kingdom people are meant to be radically different to those around them.  So much so that the world sits up & takes notice. Our whole idea of evangelism is skerwiff.  Before people will listen to what we have to say they will look @ who we are.  That is fair & reasonable.  Until the evidence of the Living God shows in our lives  all others see is the hypocrisy in our lives.  If we are no different to the world then saying things like: My life is my witness, is both meaningless & dishonest.  

Now, in the natural it is impossible to be merciful in the way Jesus means.  Our flesh screams for vengeance.  Here is where so many Christians miss it.  Christianity is not simply a matter of salvation ~ though to listen to many Christians you could not be blamed for thinking that.  Salvation is only the beginning.  Salvation places the Holy Spirit within you & the Holy Spirit of the Living God is where all your power to live & act as Christ comes from! Salvation begins the process of a radically transformed life & it will produce fruit in you!  

According to Galatians 5 :22~23 ... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Yet again we see character formation producing fruit in our lives, fruit that is predominantly characterised by love.  The 2nd fruit mentioned is joy.  What does Jesus say: Blessed are the merciful ~ happy, joyful.... but biblically joy is tied to a person: the joy of the Lord is our strength [Nehemiah 8:10] for For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,[ Romans 14:17]

Now I will show you something in the Greek.  Joy is chara but the word most closely related to it is charis ~ grace! Mercy & joy are linked to God's grace because grace is God's unmerited favour towards us.  To the depth we understand God's grace to us, we understand His mercy toward us. Jesus says of that Mary who anointed His feet: "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." [Luke 7:47] 

The thing is not that Mary's sin was greater or lesser than our own.  Rather she understood the enormity of her transgression & her response was accordingly extravagant. When we fail to grasp the enormity of our own sin it has repercussions.  Firstly it tends to make us see ourselves in a better light than others causing us to be judgmental & self~righteous.  There is no mercy flowing from judgmental self~righteousness.   When we understand how much mercy has been extended to us we are better able to extend mercy to others. The irony is that the better we understand the extent of our own sin & the grace & mercy of God towards us the more we are finally able to let go of our own guilt, our own self~condemnation & receive the free gift of God's mercy toward us.

In the way of things there are going to be 3 main groups of people who require our mercy: family, believers & unbelievers.  Of these 3 groups it is often other believers we struggle with most because they should know better.  They should behave better.  This is why Jesus issued His warning about not judging.[Matthew 7:1]  In context He is still on the mount expounding upon the Beatitudes & this command is about extending mercy to those who haven't quite got it yet.

When it comes to unbelievers it can be problematic.  They do not have the same sort of restraints on their language & behaviour that Christians generally employ but there is a verse in Romans [2:4] that highlights the importance of our response , for as followers of Christ our response should not only be Christ~like but may be the defining response that brings someone into the kingdom: 
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Mercy is serious business.  It never condones sin but it responds with grace & kindness because the deepest need of the human heart is to be accepted & loved.  That need is never greater or more needed than by those trapped in the net of their own sin.