A few years ago the local news channel would often end the six o’clock news with a segment titled: Pay it forward. For thirty seconds or so a reporter would come on the air and describe how local people were reciprocating small acts of kindness. These acts of kindness literally came in every form and fashion; someone may hold the elevator for you, open the door for you, or even anonymously pay for your meal in a fast-food drive-through! (I would have loved to be on the receiving end of that one!) The point was, for every act of kindness you receive to “pay it forward” to a stranger at some point during the day. Simply put, if someone paid for your meal in a drive-through then you would ‘pay it forward’ by purchasing the person’s meal who was behind you and so on…
As I prepare for next week’s lesson from Jonah, a few verses from the New Testament has stuck out in my mind. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36) Since this article is a short devotional, I will refrain from writing a sermon; however it is worth noting that at the most basic level of this text I see the principle of ‘Paying it forward.’ In fact, I don’t believe I need a full sermon to make my point. I believe I can ask one simple question that highlights the central principle of Jesus’s teaching here: Has God not shown you great mercy, love, and grace in the Gospel? There is much we could say of this, but the simple fact is that in Christ we have received love and mercy that human words are unable to quantify. Paul writes it with much more eloquence than I can, “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4-8). Dear friends, God has done much more than buy your food at a fast-food drive-through; He has purchased the eternal redemption of your souls with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, what’s the point of all of this? I’m glad you asked. Listen to the next two verses of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Obviously, we cannot, nor would we I dare say, offer our sons and daughters up on a cross to pay the penalty for sinful mankind. Here’s what we can do though. We can be conduits through which the tender mercies of God flow into the world. We can be the vessels through which the light of God is proclaimed into a world of darkness. We can strive to be merciful as our Father has been and always is merciful. Once more we find ourselves with this basic principle: God has shown us great love, mercy, and grace in The Gospel through Christ, so pay it forward by telling the world of the mercy God has shown you in Christ Jesus.
I’ll leave you with a statement and question to ponder that we will expound upon at Bible study next week. Jonah received a call from The Lord to go and preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. As you know, Jonah knew this city and decided it was better for them to suffer judgment instead of hearing the Word of The Lord. This is why he hopped on the nearest ship to Tarshish. We have been given a call also from God, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15). Friend, would you rather see judgment or will you ‘Pay it forward’ by telling the world of the great mercy that God has shown you in Jesus Christ?
Get practical with your faith and go share The Gospel, remember the mercy of God shown to you and ‘Pay it forward.’
Grace be with you,