How Christ Demonstrates Mercy. AG Adult Sunday School Manual

jesus showing mercy

 

HOW CHRISTIANS DEMONSTRATES MERCY

 

Memory Verse: James 2:8
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well, (KJV).

Central Truth
Christians can stand firm and grow spiritually during trials.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

1. Recognise the dangers of showing favouritism.
2. Explain why treating others unfairly is a violation of God’s commands.
3. Consider ways they can demonstrate their faith through works.

The Lesson Outline
1. By Not Showing Favouritism*
A. Respect Everyone Equally -*James 2:1-4*
B. Keep a Proper Perspective -James 2:5-7*

2. By Fulfilling the Royal Law
A. Favouritism Violates God’s Laws James 2:8-11
B. The Time for Judgement Is Coming – James 2:12, 13

3. By Doing Good Works
A. Living Faith Involves Action – James 2:14-20
B. Ensure Your Faith is Living – James 2:26

Introducing the Lesson
Question: What do these three items have in common: a car, a bicycle, and a lawnmower?_
Among the many possible answers to this question, we can be sure one would be: All perform a valuable function, but only when they are moving otherwise, they just clutter our garages.

In a similar way, God expects us to put our Christianity into action. True faith is seen in more than just what we believe or even in what we say. It involves expressing God’s love and mercy in our relationships with others. Today’s lesson examines ways Christians can put their faith into practice every day by demonstrating God’s mercy to others.

The Holy Scriptures

James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment
3. And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4. Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judgess of evil thoughts?
5. Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6. But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7. Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8. If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9. But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
14. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15. If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16. And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body: what doth it profit?

*Commentary and Application*
*1. By Not Showing Favouritism*
*A. Respect Everyone Equally–James 2:1-4*
Chapter 2 of James begins with an explicit call to fellow Christians not to show favouritism. The construction of his statement in verse 1. indicates that this was already a problem and needed to stop. Such a practice is inconsistent with what it means to be a Christian.
James illustrated the problem of showing favouritism with a
hypothetical situation involving a wealthy dignitary and a poor man entering a church meeting (verses 2-4). The rich man is quickly and politely escorted to a seat in a place of honour. Meanwhile, the poor man is directed to stand in an out-of-the- way place or squat on the floor. It is clear that discrimination is taking place based on worldly values and motives. The lack of respect for the poor man-contrasted with the preferential treatment of the rich dignitary—is evil.

Question for Application

*Why do you think Christians might be tempted to favour rich, successful people and disrespect the poor?*

We may hope that our association with such rich people will benefit us in some way. Conversely, poor people hold little chance of bringing us tangible benefits, either as individuals or as a church.

*Questions for Application*
*What other classes or kinds of people might Christians be tempted to favour or disregard?*

B. Keep a Proper

Perspective–James 2:5-7

James pointed out that, among other reasons, favouritism is flawed because we tend to favour people who aren’t necessarily godly or worthy of our preferential treatment. He highlighted the folly of favouring the rich by noting that the Early Church was made up mainly of the poor (James 2:5; see also 1Corinthians 1:26-29). James’ point is that Christians are rich in faith. God’s promises are greater than anything worldly riches can provide.
At the same time it’s important not to misunderstand James. He wasn’t saying that poverty has some inherent spiritual value or that rich people can’t serve God. We must keep a proper perspective by valuing spiritual things. Riches and other temporal things hold no value in eternity.
The flawed values of many in James’ audience caused them to insult the poor. Three rhetorical questions in verses 6 and 7 brought this point home. The poor in the churches had been exploited and oppressed by the rich. They had used their power in the legal system to harass poor believers. Perhaps worst of all, the impoverished Christians had heard the rich slander the very name of the Lord they worshipped. Yet some believers favoured such men at the expense of their spiritual brothers and sisters.

*Question for Application*
*What can we do to guard against showing favouritism?*

We must examine our hearts and motives. Do we look at people in terms of what we think they can do for us or as God sees them? We need to keep a proper prospective when we interact with others.

2. By Fulfilling the Royal Law
A. Favouritism Violates God’s Laws–James 2:8-11

Question for Application
What, then, should be the principle that guides how we interact with others?

 

The rich, like the poor, need God’s mercy, forgiveness, and
salvation. Thus, we should love them no matter how they live, what they do, or even what values they hold. This love must be sincere and godly, not based on what they can do for us.

Such love is seen in the command in James 2:8. Love for our neighbours is seen as the royal law because it is God’s supreme command for all human relationships. Everything God commands us to do to, for, and with other people is governed by this principle. We must extend His love equally to all rich or poor, good or bad, attractive or repulsive.

James used this foundation to make a startling proclamation:
Favouritism for one person over another puts us in the same category as lawbreakers, like murderers and adulterers (verses 9-11). Violating God’s commands leaves us guilty in His eyes. Whether we’ve acted immorally or acted with prejudice, we’re in violation of His will. Such a pronouncement serves to make a seemingly minor act of favouritism anything but small.
Yet there’s a way to avoid breaking God’s laws: Love your neighbour as yourself (verse 8). That neighbour isn’t just the person next door or on the other end of the pew. The term “neighbour” applies to all those we come in contact with. All people equally deserve to see God’s love shown through us.

*Question for Application*
*How would you respond to someone who says, can’t reach out and show God’s love to everyone. That’s why I focus my time, attention, and resources on certain people-namely, the ones with whom | have the most in common’?*

It is true that we cannot be everything to everyone. Yet we must keep in mind that God sees our motives as well as our actions. We must resist the temptation to avoid showing His love to those who are the different from us. Sometimes that love is demonstrated in simple ways, through tone of voice, attitude, and simple respect. Loving our neighbours is the right thing to do.

B. The Time for Judgement Is Coming–James 2:12,13

*Question for Application*
*What do you think it means to say that we will be judged by the law of liberty’ (James 2:12, KJV)?*

There are two principles to keep in mind in answering this question.
First, like all sins, prejudice and partiality will lead to God’s judgement. Therefore, we must avoid them at all costs.
Second, all Christians will face a time when the quality of their works will be evaluated (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Yet, God is merciful. Believers need not fear His judgement as long as they are following His ways.

 

They are to be quick to act with mercy and love toward those around them.
Because our actions and attitudes will be judged, we must respond with appropriate words and actions. We’re surrounded by people who need God’s mercy. Some are rich and influential, but others are poor, oppressed, and easily overlooked. God calls us to show mercy, love, and respect to all. We can do so with the promise that in the end well receive God’s mercy when we stand before Him.

Question for Application

Why can it be a struggle to keep the reality of future judgement in mind when deciding how to treat those around us?*

We can’t see the spiritual realm, so it can be easy to lose sight of spiritual realities. There are usually no immediate consequences when we pretend not to notice that not-so-appealing visitor at church or ignore an opportunity to help the needy in our neighbourhoods. But when we maintain an eternal perspective, God will help us show His mercy–as much as we are able in every part of our lives.

*3. By Doing Good Works*
*A. Living Faith Involves Action–James 2:14-20*
*Question for Application*
*What part do good works play in our salvation?*

To answer this question, we need to see salvation as more than a moment in time when we repent and believe. Salvation includes the new life we enjoy in Christ as we move toward eternity.
With this perspective of salvation in view, we must remember that we’re not saved by good works (Ephesians 2:8,9). At the same time, our actions must reflect the new Iife we have received through Christ. This is evident in our good works (Philippians 2:12,13). James stated this in no uncertain terms, posing a rhetorical question in James 2:14 which declares that faith without appropriate actions can’t save us.

 

This may sound overly strong until we read his vivid illustration in verses 15 and 16. This person is desperate, yet is brushed aside by the believer with a glib I wish you well.” It’s hard to imagine a more heartless scene.

Such a lack of mercy betrays the absence of true love. God’s love compels us to right action. Anything less is empty words.
James then issued a challenge: “Show me thy faith without, thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (verse 18, KJV). Faith can’t exist apart from action. Mere mental assent isn’t true faith; even demons believe in God (verse 19). Godly faith goes much deeper, expressing itself in a changed life. Faith motivates us to reach out to the needy. It demands that we love the unlovely. It calls us to respect the poor as well as the rich. Genuine, saving faith is followed by action.

In verse 20, James recognised that some people would demand proof that faith without works is dead.

Question for Application
What are some biblical examples of people of faith putting their faith into action?

In verses 21-25, James cited Abraham and Rahab as examples of faith and works in action. Scores of other examples could also be given.
Often, great men and women of faith suffered terribly because they put that faith into action. (See Hebrews 11.) They did so willingly-and so should we. Our beliefs involve much more than our words. They call us to a lifestyle of obedience to the God we have placed our trust in.

B. Ensure Your Faith Is Living–James 2:26

James’ propensity to use vivid llustrations in making his point continued in James 2:26. The body without the spirit is dead and useless. The term “spirit” carries with it the sense of “soul” or “breath” and refers to the essence of life. When the spirit is gone, life is gone In the same way faith without the deeds is void of life, essence, and usefulness. Genuine, living faith will be accompanied by action. The two are inseparable.

Question for Application
What does it mean to act on your faith?

It’s important to see the “bigger
picture” when it comes to acting on our faith. Words, actions, attitudes, habits, and priorities all can be involved. Obviously, acting on our faith includes sharing the love and salvation of Christ with a hurting, needy person. But we also act on our faith when we pray consistently for a lost loved one. Or we might take steps to remove a sinful habit.
James 2 challenges us to examine our hearts and our actions. Are we harbouring ungodly thoughts or preferences? We act on our faith when we repent and ask God to help us change. Do we see a person, place, or situation in need of God’s mercy? Our faith takes action when we do our part to reach out with that mercy.
The one thing we must do is to make sure our faith is not a dead faith. Living faith is active faith. How we put it into action will depend on the needs we face and how God enables us. We must find ways to express our faith in our everyday living. This is particularly true in how we relate to others.

CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP

It’s human nature to be drawn to some people while tending to ignore others. Usually, our intentions are good. We might be so fixated on reaching a coworker we’ve witnessed for the last year that we ignore the single mom in the next cubicle who is hurting and could use encouragement or a helping hand.
God has called us to put His love into action toward all people-the
ones we like being around as well as those we don’t. Take time to explore your own life this week. Do you tend to shun a particular individual or group of people? Make a point to treat everyone with a kind word and a loving attitude.

 

Ministry in Action

In John 13:35, Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Identify a specific, practical need in the life of someone you know that might: otherwise be overlooked. Then do what you can to help meet that need.

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