I ran out of time Sunday to answer all of the questions submitted anonymously following the sermon, so I will give them a response here. Note that I am answering them in much the same way I would have Sunday, with no preparation, no outside resources. So I am glad to spend time talking in person about these questions if helpful.
Q. How do we show mercy can kindness to others without enabling their behavior? Or for example in the workplace without being seen as a pushover - where we can't necessarily talk about our faith?
A. This is a great question. First let me say that to a certain degree we must be ready to admit that there is a cost to following Jesus. The command in Micah 6.8, the text we talked about Sunday, discusses mercy/kindness (Hesed) as a way that we allow ourselves to be made crooked by the crooked - we receive the brokenness of others, we are affected by it. We cannot disqualify ourselves from that command no matter our context, so the question here is especially helpful: how do we proceed with our Lord's command while in an environment that does not reward kindness and mercy? Mercy does not always contain tenderness but it does always contain sacrifice. If you are a supervisor, for instance, and you express mercy for a person in your authority, it may look like stern correction, or an action plan for their improvement that requires extra work and energy (and prayer) from you. While this may not always be received as a kindness it is one way that you are receiving the sin and brokenness of the person and being affected by it. So there is a way in which mercy intersects with just being a good manager. On the other hand, good management doesn't always exclude gossip and ill will toward an employee, but your Christianity does. So sacrificial kindness/mercy may mean that you silence gossip where it happens and you commit yourself to believing the best about and for this person. You pray for them, you pay the price to treat them with dignity, even where you must express discipline.
There is also the case where you listen and give second chances, where you meet a coworker's sin with humanity and kindness, and they view you as a pushover as a result. Again let me say that it would be consistent with everything the Bible tells us for your Christianity to cost you a promotion if you are seen as not bloodthirsty enough to take the next step on the ladder. It would be okay if your Christian duty costs you materially. But while mercy may sometimes makes you appear to be a pushover, it does not require you to be a pushover. Some may wickedly use your kindness to get ahead, they may abuse your trust. For those I say you must protect yourself. While Jesus says turn the other cheek he does not say that you must run around in arm's length of abusers. I would be very open and honest with someone that attempts to walk on you. "I dealt with you kindly but you abused my trust. You need to know that this will never happen again." In the Gospels Jesus uses the example of the forgiven debt to show that a good king who is tricked by his debtor (the king forgives much but the wicked debtor shows no mercy to those who owe him a small amount). In the parable Jesus sends the wicked debtor to prison for treating him like a pushover.
Q. How do we make time to fight for justice in the busyness of life? What does that look like and how does it fall into living 'the good life'?
A. So this is the subject for next Sunday's sermon - a continuation of last week's study on Micah 6 which will explore what it looks like for us to pursue the Good Life. I'll be glad to take this up again if you're still looking for clarification. A brief point: God's response to the difficulty and even brutality of living this life is to give himself to our work. When you find yourself in the pit for expressing justice and mercy you will also find Jesus there.
Q. In the attempt to answer the question, 'Where can I best be used by God for good?' How does one go about evaluating what is the 'best' situation instead of just a 'good' situation?
A. Right, so this question was one I asked our congregation to consider in light of the Bible's statement that the Good Life is a life of justice. We should be looking for how we can best be used by God for good. I think I'm not as worried about the decision between the best and merely good situations for justice. I think God will honor the question, and the honest attempt to find the best way to do justice and will lead us by conscience and good counsel. I would love to live in a world where I, and all of us, are simply seeking a good way to do good. If we found ourselves struggling to find the best of those options, it would mean the Holy Spirit had greatly changed our hearts. I typically find that the question of where and how I can do the most good rarely plays into our life choices about where to live, work, go to school, etc.
Q. The Lord is forgiving but also just. Would the Devil get another chance if he professed faith in the Lord? Would he be forgiven of his sins? How can we forgive as flawed humans as our flawless God does?
A. If Satan had professed faith in the Lord and sought forgiveness would God have forgiven his sins? Yes. The name 'Satan' simply means 'the Adversary.' He is defined by his opposition to the Kingdom of God. If he were to follow God he would no longer be the Adversary and would be as deserving of forgiveness as any sinner who repents. Grace does not work on our merit. The most vile sinner can be forgiven and washed clean by seeking forgiveness. People often talk about the 'unforgivable sin' and some Christians worry about whether they've committed it. The unforgivable sin is the determined unwillingness to believe in the Lord Jesus, so if you've placed your faith in Christ you are not able to commit the unforgivable sin. God is close to the broken, needy, repentant sinner. How can we forgive like that? Well we can't, exactly. But we can grow in the direction of that kind of forgiveness. The best way, personally, is to nurture a discipline of prayer and confession - rehearsing the grace of God in your life and how you've been forgiven will equip you for forgiveness of others. This is the meaning of Jesus' statements in the parables when he says that the one who has been forgiven much, forgives much. Another way to grow in your ability to forgive is to make use of the means of grace: to attend worship regularly to hear the Word of God preached, to pray, and to take the Lord's Supper which strengthens you for life in His world.