Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sweet Mercy!!

Last Sunday, Pastor Rob shared the most incredible message from the Beattitudes on Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Then he brings up mercy as it relates to the Good Samaritan.  Even though you may be familiar with this passage, here's the general storyline again:
(The story: this guy [the victim, probably a good guy] gets beat up and robbed and left dying on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite pass by the victim and don't bother to help him, but the good Samaritan (the hero of the story) comes by and bandages the wounds of the poor victim, sets him on his animal and takes him to an inn, where he asks the innkeeper to take care of him; then the Samaritan agrees to pay for all the costs. Mostly I have understood this story as it tells how the Samaritan was despised and how the Jews hated and were hostile toward Samaritans; even the victim would have despised the one who helped him.)

So what is mercy? It is compassion/love in action for people in need. God is mercy and shows mercy continuously. God shows mercy on the just and the unjust; those who deserve it and those who do not. Do I deserve God's mercy today? Did I deserve it the day I gave Him my life? Did I deserve it when I had an abortion? Did I deserve it when I hated my parents for some real or perceived wrong?  It was good to let the Holy Spirit ask me these tough questions, but in the truth of my heart, I felt I could honestly say no, I didn't deserve any of it, and yes, I could acknowledge the beauty and wonder of God's mercy and thank Him for it. And,Yes, I believed I would behave as did the Good Samaritan if put in that situation. 

But I must say I was totally unprepared for the dialogue the Holy Spirit began to have with me.  He asked me about my giving of mercy to others; how I choose to give to some and choose to withhold from others. He spoke to me about how the lack of mercy is something that can be hidden in most Christian circles. We are kind to our brothers and sisters of faith and play the nice little church games with one another, all without ever really coming into much contact with those "less-fortunate victims" in the world.  In fact, it was a lack of mercy (love) that kept the older brother away from welcoming the Prodigal Son when he returned home. I kept trying to rightly evaluate my mercy response and felt a little indignant; I felt I really measured up okay, and was surely better than some "other people" I know.  

It was then that the Holy Spirit began to turn up the heat a bit. He asked me about my choice to show mercy if the person in need was someone I knew in my city, like
     1. a teenager who hated his parents and wished them harm;
     2. an abortionist on his way to work, or a woman on her way to have one;
     3. a man who planned to sell a woman or child into the slave market;
     4. a woman on her way to work at the strip club downtown;
     5. a man or woman on their way to cheat on a spouse, or gamble the 
         family home away, or embezzle funds from their employer.

The list could go on and on.  Would I be so willing to go out of my way, paying my hard-earned money (or lack thereof) for someone like that? Would I be willing to give to meet their need? What if the giving requirement was or time planned for family, friends, or self? Would I willingly go out of my way to show mercy for one like that; for one who might despise my help or never show one ounce of gratitude?  For the one who might receive my mercy and then go on and follow through with what they were planning to do while not accepting the free gift of Jesus' mercy.

Ouch. I know I failed the test. While my mind wanted to say yes, I would show mercy, the Lord knew my heart, and He knew that exposure was the only way I would see it and allow Him to fix it. He told me it didn't really matter to Him how I measured up against another person. What really mattered to Him was how I measured up to Jesus.  God knows my deepest thoughts and intents, and knows me even better than I know myself.  All week, the Lord has continued to speak to me about His mercy and the transforming power of His love - for me and for others.  If I want to be like Jesus, I must allow Him to transform my heart and begin to love life's "victims" like Jesus did, without expectation of one single thing in return or even the hope of something in return even as a thought. 

That day, I sat in that little pew and began to come into agreement with the Lord about the condition of my heart.  I wept, asking Him to reveal His heart to me. Each day this week, He has continued to speak to me about this revelation of grace and mercy, and I find that I am seeking and desiring to be more aware of those who are hurting and in need around me.  While I may never find myself in the same position as the Good Samaritan, it is my desire to allow Jesus to so transform my heart and my life, that I am totally prepared to share His help and hope in compassionate acts of mercy at all times.  

Blessed are the merciful, because they will receive mercy - maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in this life on earth, but I know that when I step into eternity, Jesus, my Bridegroom, King and Judge, will pour out mercy on me because I have willingly poured out mercy to "the least of these".  

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