For his sermon on mercy, Bartholomew Orr turned to a text that might seem surprising — the story of Jesus cleansing the temple in Matthew 21.
Orr, pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, had been tasked with unpacking Matthew 5:7 — “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” — at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference 2023 on June 12.
As he talked about how Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and salesmen in the temple, he turned over tables on the stage and asked the question, “What set Jesus off when He went into the temple and literally began throwing tables?”
‘No more mercy’
Orr said he believes the answer is the attitude the people there had toward God’s house.
“They had lost their joy for what the Lord had called them to do,” he said. “They had become more concerned about profiting from their work than participating in the worship.”
Not only that — they had “no more mercy for the people of God,” Orr said.
That area of the temple was the only place where outsiders could come and worship God, he said. “Jesus was upset because they were keeping the main folks who needed to be in out of the church.”
Orr said pastors and leaders need to ask themselves how they’re representing God to outsiders.
“Are we letting our light shine? Are we merciful and full of compassion? When it comes to our action, when it comes to our affection, when it comes to our attitude, how do we deal with the strangers in our own services? Do we welcome people in? Are we hospitable?”
Sometimes if pastors are not careful, they can lose their compassion for outsiders, he said.
‘Merciful and faithful High Priest’
“Mercy — more than just an attitude of the heart, it’s our Christianity in action. Even Jesus Christ Himself in Hebrews 2:17 is our merciful and faithful High Priest,” Orr said.
The day He cleansed the temple, “Jesus literally saw the need to rearrange some things in the church, to shift some things in the church, to change some things in the church because they had lost their mercy and compassion,” Orr said.
When Jesus turned over the tables, He also turned the tables for those who were on the outside, he said. “It was a miracle that was able to take place — the blind came in, the lame came in, others were able to come in and they received something from the Lord. Why? Because Jesus was going to reverse the situation and give others an opportunity to come to the table.”
‘Be lifted up’
Orr said Southern Baptists need to be careful not to give the church over to people who are more concerned about the bottom line than about people who are at the bottom of the line and the back of the line.
“There are still folks who are sick and need healing,” he said. “There are folks who are struggling and need a hand up. There are folks who are stressed out, and they need some help for tomorrow. There are folks who are suffering and saying, ‘I need some help,’ and God is saying, ‘I want My church to be a church of mercy and compassion where sick people can find the doctor that they need, where individuals can come and if they’re down, they can be lifted up.”
To view more photos from Orr’s message, click here.