“I, like a green olive tree in the house of God, Trust in the mercy of God
forever and ever.” Psalm 52:10
The first Bill was my mentor for Evangelism during seminary. Before seminary, he was on staff for Campus Crusade for Christ. He was also an exceptionally gifted exegete. His master’s thesis became a published book on Divorce and Remarriage. In one of our evangelism training sessions, he lamented the state of Evangelical publishing. “Evangelicals are adopting the view held by Erasmus. It gives Christians the right to divorce and remarry.” It was a hard nosed approach to divorce and remarriage. Some called it brittle and judgmental. Years later, Bill was surprised by the mercy of God through the writings of another Evangelical. Bill learned how I Corinthians 7:15 sets the divorced person free (Paul was paraphrasing the Jewish Bill of Divorce that says, “You are free to marry any man”.
A few years later, the pastor of my first Church, Pastor Bill (my second Bill), was having a long time affair. No one at the Church knew about it until he had resigned. During my first month in the pastorate, he married the woman and asked to attend the Keene Church. Having approximate one month of pastoral experience, I had no clue what do asking God, “Why Me?”
I called my District Superintendent who was also named Bill. Superintendent Bill asked me to follow what I believed. What would theologian Bill say? What about former Pastor Bill and his feelings? The congregation adored former pastor Bill, so I told Superintendent Bill, in the words of Gandhi, “There go, my people, I must follow them.” I’m glad I followed the congregation’s heart of mercy. Amazingly Bill eventually returns to his first wife and spends his retirement years pastoring this little country church!
The third Bill was the Old Testament bill of divorce.
God calls Hosea, the worlds most famous divorcee, to live out “mercy, not sacrifice” and to ignore Deuteronomy 22:20 (“But if this charge is true, that the girl was not a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel, by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”) Interestingly, Jesus also brushed the aside Deuteronomy in Matthew 19:5-6 and Mark 10:7-10!
God asks Hosea to be the good Husband. Because of Hosea’s mercy, Gomer, the prodigal wife, returns to Hosea.
I believe Hosea was the freest person in the Old Testament because he was merciful while never surrendering the truth.
The Greek word ἔλεος (mercy) is translated “kindness or concern expressed for someone in need, mercy, compassion, pity, or clemency.” Danker and Bauer, in their Greek Dictionary of the New Testament offer five reasons Mercy is linked to Freedom:
1. The freedom which stands in contrast to the constraint of the Mosaic law looked upon as slavery (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).
2. In contrast to legal serfdom (James 1:25 refers to νόμος τ. ἐλευθερίας).
3. The liberty of a Christian (1 Corinthians 10:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17).
4. This freedom must not degenerate into license (Iren. 4, 37, 4;1 Peter 2:16).
5. In contrast to the slavery of corruption stands the glorious freedom of God’s children (Romans 8:21).
Francis, known as the merciful Pope wrote: ” Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face, is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. ”