THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2016
MERCY AND PUNISHMENT
We have been saying that mercy is forgoing the punishment
that is justly deserved. This was manifested by the king toward
his servant, when rather than having him and his family sold
in payment of his debt, “moved with compassion the master
of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”
mercy is not given just for its own sake, but for the purpose
of bringing a person back or in from the darkness. Mercy is
an invitation to repentance. Oftentimes, a sinner needs to
experience chastisement in order to be brought to repentance.
This is why Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could confidently
pray to God: “deal with us in your kindness and mercy.”
(Dn 3:42). But what had God done to His people? “You
have handed us over to our enemies” (Dn 3:32a). Why?
“For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from
you, and we have done every kind of evil.” (Dn 3:29).
They sinned and they were punished, precisely because
of God’s mercy. It was God’s way to bring
them back, the way of justice and punishment. “You have
executed proper judgments in all that you have brought upon
us .... By a proper judgment you have done all this because
of our sins” (Dn 3:28).
does not just exist by itself. Rather, it exists in relation
to sin. People are sinful, and God in relation to sinners
is merciful. “Good and upright is the Lord, therefore
he shows sinners the way” (Ps 25:8). God looks at sin
and sees that the only way out for sinners is by His mercy.
In sinning against God, we are like the servant who owed a
huge debt to the king; “he had no way of paying it back”
(Mt 18:25a). What is the way out then? It is for the creditor
to condone the debt (Mt 18:27). This is mercy. This is why
David could pray with confidence: “Remember no more
the sins of my youth; remember me according to your mercy,
because of your goodness, Lord.” (Ps 25:7).
since God is merciful to us, He expects us to be merciful
to others. If in God’s mercy we escape punishment, in
our lack of mercy to others we will merit punishment. This
is what happened to the servant whose debt was condoned, but
who could not do for another servant what the master had done
for him. The debt here was “a much smaller amount”
(Mt 18:28), the other servant begged for time to be able to
pay, as he had also done with the master, but unlike the master
who reversed his decision to sell him, his family and all
his property, he had his fellow servant imprisoned. The master
was angry at this and took back the debt condonation, and
“handed him over to the torturers until he should pay
back the whole debt.” (Mt 18:34).
Jesus tells us, “Be merciful just as your Father is
merciful.” As the master told the unforgiving servant,
“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?” (Mt 18:33). We receive mercy,
we extend mercy. If not, the consequences will be severe.
We will have to undergo the fullness of just punishment for
our sins. “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless
each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Mt
are to forgive others for the sins they commit against us.
How many times? Peter thought he was generous as he suggested
seven times. Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven
times but seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18:22). In other
words, without limit. We are fortunate that God’s mercy
and forgiveness are unlimited. “Remember your compassion
and your mercy, O Lord, for they are ages old.” (Ps
25:6). We will do well to also remember that we are to be
compassionate and merciful.