4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
What ministry have we received? Is it not the ministry of mercy? I have been accused recently of cherry picking the parts of the Bible that make God look good and skipping over the parts that make Him look bad. Specifically God told Moses to essentially step aside so He could let His rage burn the rebellious Israelites to a crisp in the desert for dancing around a golden calf.
It is true that God spoke those words (more or less) but there is much more to the story.
In the New Testament Jesus was traveling with his disciples in Sidon. A woman came begging for Jesus to help her sick daughter. Jesus flat out ignored her. For a while the disciples said nothing either but the woman was persistent and kept asking and asking. Finally the disciples had had enough and one of them blurted out "Master send her away, she is annoying!" At this point Jesus stops pretending she doesn't exist and tells the woman He is only here for the Jews, not for Gentile dogs. Not the words you would expect to fall from the lips of Jesus but they were a pleasant sound to the disciples. Finally He was getting his priorities straight.
Then the woman responded in a most gracious way. "Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table..."
"Woman" said Jesus, "I have not seen such faith in all of Israel. Go in peace, your daughter is well."
A surface reading of the story is confusing just as a surface reading of the aftermath of the golden calf is confusing. Is God enraged or abounding in mercy? Is He racist and prejudiced or does He love all people the same?
Could it not be that in both stories the words from God we're simply echoing the thoughts of His audience? In so doing was He not trying to help them see how ugly and wrong those thoughts were? Haven't you ever thought something and then when you began to hear the words tumble out of your mouth you immediately were struck with how awful they were?
If Jesus really thought the people of Sidon were dogs why was He there to begin with? If God really wanted to consume Israel in a fit of rage did He need Moses to step out of the way first?
It was Moses who assumed God was fed up with Israel. It was he who smashed the covenant before even discussing the issue with God. It was Moses who killed the slave master in a fit of rage. It was Moses who assumed God was not so different from us...
It was the disciples who found the woman annoying. It was they who felt all Gentiles were dogs. Jesus just wanted them to see the ugliness of their hearts before demonstrating the mercy in His.
For anyone with an unveiled face, His mercy is beyond evident. We are still here aren't we? God stood back while we killed His Son and still extended us His mercy. What more evidence do we need? And where do we get off thinking that after such a limitless, boundless, extravagant display of unconditional love we have the right to withhold mercy from others, to "teach them a lesson" by making them wallow in their shame?
We have been given the ministry of mercy. It is for us to renounce shame. To bring our brokenness out into the light and experience full healing for ourselves and our enemies in the recovery room of His grace. When sinners tangled up in shame come to any person who claims to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ they should see and find the same thing Moses found and saw when he was in the cleft of the rock - Mercy.