Reflections – 2018.10

Mercy – It’s So Unfair

Sometimes people are difficult.  You can probably think of a few examples.  The Scriptures seem to affirm us in our thoughts about them.  After all, people are sinners and are capable of doing and saying things that are hurtful.  And that person in your mind is particularly good at it, abusing you with words, gossiping about you to someone else, doing things to intentionally agitate you, seeking to prevent you from receiving blessings from others by taking credit for work you have done, delighting in showing you up in a public forum.  That person, whether professing to be a Christian or not, is an enemy … he or she is against you.

I was preparing the other day for the Reading of the Law portion of our morning worship service and I read the following instruction:

“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)

This passage, if read seriously, MUST cut right to the heart.  My heart (and maybe yours?) says, “Great!  So all of this that I have received from my adversary is to be answered with kindness and mercy and love and good deeds and low expectations of any return?  It hardly seems fair and it certainly isn’t easy.”  But, one might say to himself or to herself, “I’ll try.  I’ll try to love my enemies or anyone who is ungrateful towards me or shows me their ‘dark side.’   I will be merciful.  I will be above them.”

As I was thinking about the people in my life who might fit the category of those I need to show mercy towards, I had the blessing of meeting with a member of the congregation.  In the course of our friendly banter, I mentioned this text and how hard it was to apply this.  His response convicted me – he said (I am paraphrasing), “I am glad for that – I am ungrateful and evil – isn’t it great the our Father is merciful.”

I felt a little like that Pharisee who looked down on the “sinner” – the Pharisee who was so thankful he was NOT like the ungrateful and the evil.  The Pharisee who might be convinced to show mercy because it made him feel more righteous, that there might be even more separation between himself and those he would be blessing with his “mercy.”  It became clear to me that real mercy will only be possible if I appreciate more fully the mercy shown to me in Christ.  I am ungrateful.  I am evil.  But the Father is merciful – praise God!   For it is while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us, the just for the unjust, that we might be reconciled to God.  He showed mercy so that there would be a restored relationship between us and Him.  Why do I show mercy?  Why do you?