This post is being written as part of the Bridges group, seeking to close the divide that is creeping into our society. I want to thank Susan Irene Fox and Lilka Raphael for their work on this project and for inviting me to be a part. For more information you can CLICK HERE
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man,what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?
I urge you, if you have not read the first blog on doing justly, that you click here and read that first, because it sets the foundation. This post will deal with the second principle – to love mercy. Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. We as Christians use the word often for what God has shown toward us in sending His son Jesus Christ to die in our place. That was the ultimate act of mercy. God had every right to condemn us all for sin, yet he had mercy, compassion, on us and forgave us through His Son. Mercy is His passion. We see it over and over again through the pages of the Bible. He could have killed Adam and Eve and started over again! He had mercy on Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, Ruth, David, Bathsheba, Job, Solomon and many more. Mercy is at the center of God’s heart, and He wants it to have the same place in ours.
So, what does it look like if I love mercy? I would have compassion toward all. Compassion also encompasses empathy. Empathy is a quality that I am sorely lacking in, but I believe I understand what it means. The best illustration of empathy I have ever seen was a preacher who came to our little church. He was rolling along with his message, doing a great job talking about empathy, and then all of a sudden, he stopped. He got a frightened look on his face and started looking around the lectern, and out at the audience. The once smooth speaker looked lost. He looked out at everyone and quietly said “I am so sorry. I just lost my place completely and I’m not sure where to pick it up”. He had such a lost look on his face. As a speaker, I really felt for him. Then he looked out at us with renewed confidence and said “what you just felt for me was empathy. You could put yourself in my place and feel my pain”. I will never forget that day almost 35 years ago. God put himself in our shoes, and saw our hopeless estate. So, He sent His Son to take our place.
As we look around at this fragile environment that is in our culture today, where can we apply this principle? Can we empathize with the black community, who have been struggling all their lives, and their ancestor’s lives, to be treated equally, only to be slapped in the face? Can we empathize with the residents of Ferguson or Baltimore, Baton Rouge of Falcon Heights, who have seen injustice done to one of their own, or do we point a finger at them and say they brought it on themselves. Truth is, I have been in the latter group up until recently, when a documentary on Netflix called “13th” rocked my world and my perspective. I highly recommend you watch it!
Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes is not an easy thing, but it is a necessary thing to truly show mercy. And mercy is more than that. It is also compassion, and love. Looking at our best definition of love, found in 1 Cor 13, we read:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth
I remember reading this once and weeping because I had so much to learn, and I was so far from practicing the kind of love God desires me to have. No envy, no pride, no ill will, no self-seeking, never provoked, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. In other words, we never take offense, and we believe the best about people. All the time, every time. This is mercy. Where are you on the mercy scale? I have a long way to go.
Come back tomorrow for the last of this series of requirements – walking humbly before your God.