Dean's List: The Immeasurable Mercy of God

Aaron T. Fenker

Be merciful, as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:37-38

Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing into your lap." That's how God is toward you. It's what He does for you.  There's always more with Him. He can never run out of giving. He gives more and more and more! And we're not even talking about the gifts of creation: First Article, daily bread sort of stuff--things like clothing, food, drink, house, "everything you need to support your body and life." No, we're talking about His Gifts that redeem you and make you holy.

The Lord is "compassionate and merciful" (Exodus 34:6). He doesn't judge. He doesn't condemn. He saves. He "forgives iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:7). He pardons, declares innocent. He gives and gives and gives of His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, and His salvation in Jesus Christ. There's nothing He likes giving more than saving you, forgiving you, and delivering salvation to you.

There's no calculation in the Lord's giving. There's no measurement. No recipe. No pinch of this. No dash of that. He'd be a terrible baker. No, when He gives, He gives the whole lot. With everything He gives He says, "Push it down, shake it together, make room for more. Fill it to full--past full! Overflowing, now that's enough. Even still, keep giving more!" That's how your Father gives.

So what's the Father pouring forth? What does He unendingly give? What overflows? Well, He's merciful and compassionate so He's pouring forth His not-judging, His not-condemning, His pardoning, and His giving. And you can sum that all up in one word: forgiveness. That forgiveness is in His Son Jesus--in His death and resurrection.

His Son gives yet even more Gifts: His Word and His Sacraments. And those not only deliver forgiveness, not only deliver salvation, but they're the Means of the Spirit. Jesus' Gifts give the Spirit to you, and with the Spirit even more gifts! "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). The Triune God always gives more and more.

Any calculation, any limit, any recipe comes from unfaith, unbelief, rejecting the Lord with His Gifts. The way of unfaith says how much of the Lord is too much. Unbelief says, "You can have too much Jesus, too much forgiveness." Someone who doesn't want to learn from Jesus determines what someone else must do to be forgiven and given to. You know how your coworker, family member, church member messed up, wronged you, and you know exactly what they need to do, don't you?

Those who bypass Teacher Jesus think they know the proper remedy when they see the speck in a brother's eye. They know what recipe is needed to get the proper result, which is someone living the way you want them to--proper proportions of judgment, condemnation, and maybe a dash of forgiveness at the end. As you're grasping and groping for the speck in their eyes, the log takes out your eye, and blinded, you end up in the pit, in hell forever.

"Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing into your lap." That's how God is toward you. It's what He wants for you and for all. There's always more with Him. He can never run out of giving. His forgiveness, His mercy removes your logs, and so those very things can definitely remove others' specks. God gives the whole lot. He doesn't hold back. He pours into the open hands of faith.

And He doesn't wait for anyone's permission to give. He doesn't wait for the world to be ready to receive His Son before He sends Him into this world. Jesus doesn't wait for anyone to be ready before He pours out His lifeblood unto death. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He doesn't wait on our say-so to rise from the dead. He doesn't even wait to pour out His Gifts. He baptizes, He absolves, He gives His Body and Blood, and then gives us the faith to trust those gifts.  

Let's circle back to gifts of this life for a second. The Lord just gives the gifts there, too, all for us to enjoy them. He doesn't ask if we're ready for children or spouses or vocations or any of the other manifold gifts He gives us. He just gives.

Now, when it comes to His mercy, His forgiveness, you could reject those things. You could live in the sins He saved you from and close your hand to receiving more. You could reject the gift for others, too. When you take His mercy and then are unmerciful and unloving, that's a sign you've closed your hand to it and turned your back on Him. "With the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

But why would you do any of that? "Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing into your lap." He doesn't run out of mercy. He just gives more and more. Your Father doesn't run out of not-judging, not-condemning, His pardoning, His giving. He even delivers it in the Gifts of His Son, Jesus. He wants it to overflow for you, for if it overflows into your lap, then His mercy, His forgiveness will overflow to those around you.

There's no calculation in the Lord's giving. He gives in the way of gift. Gifts are given. The way of calculation, estimation, or limit isn't the way of gift. That ends in the pit. That's not the Lord's way of doing things. He wants to give, not judge! Don't make Him judge you by you rejecting Him. Even so He's merciful because Jesus took our judgment on the Cross.  Jesus is self-sacrificing, giving His own wants and desires and life unto death for others, for you, for those around you. And those who are thus given to, also give thus to others.

The Lord's mercy overflows for you and for all.  That's what He's giving. Your Father is, Jesus is, the Spirit is, too, each in His own way. The Triune God pours forth mercy until it's overflowing--overflowing for you, to you, through you to all. Now, that's a "good measure"!

Rev. Aaron T. Fenker serves as pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Bremen, Kansas. He is also the dean of theology at Higher Things.
This article was originally published in the summer 2019 issue of Higher Things Magazine.
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