I have been desiring to be merciful and compassionate to people in a greater way recently than I ever have before. I have realized that the Lord desires mercy more than the things we give or “do” for Him. In Matthew 12:7, Jesus speaks to the pharisees and says:
And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless.
I am realizing that many times I think I have a right to judge or condemn, in reality, those who are guiltless. I compare my life to others and selfishly and arrogantly look down on them with contempt and pride. I judge their motives and lives thinking that I am somehow better than they are. Although I do none of this on purpose, it is my first and natural reaction.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. – Matthew 5:7
Last christmas, our youth pastor and his wife took all the youth leaders on our annual christmas trip where we ate, had a scavenger hunt (stories to tell on that one) and opened presents. The presents were small things they had bought at a dollar store and wrapped up. The presents weren’t labeled so they told us each to pick a random present, open it and tell everyone what they thought it meant. The presents were to symbolize what God would be focusing on in our lives during that next year. We’ve done this for years and, strange as it sounds, it has a remarkable track record for being true and deeply spiritual. Anyways, when I opened my present, I saw that i had gotten (what the package called) “Lip Leash Lip Gloss”. It was a travel lip gloss container with a mirror on the back. After opening it I harbored a guess what it meant (“I think God’s telling me to watch my words”) but I didn’t know the fullness of the meaning until a few nights ago.
The present represented that God wanted me to “stop judging and start giving mercy to others (deserving or not) in view of my need for mercy”. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus starts out with the Beautitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) and the very first one is:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3
Being “poor in spirit” is simply to realize where you’d be without the mercy and grace of God. It is a realization that you cannot save yourself and you are forever doomed without God intervening into your life. The next step is to mourn that you are living for far less than what God wants for your life (Matthew 5:4). After that happens, when you realize who you are apart from God and you mourn consistently for all the things you do apart from God…true meekness and humility set in (Matthew 5:5). Something comes over you that you realize that there is no judgment or consequence you don’t deserve. That causes a hungering and thirsting for God to start in your life (note: the true realization of weakness always draws us closer to the Sufficient One) and you start desiring God above all else (Matthew 5:6, 6:33) and then because of the hunger and because of the true humility…you are compassionate towards people. You feel for them. You desire mercy for those in the struggle and you pray and long for mercy for those who don’t want to struggle anymore.
In my life recently, I have been more acutely aware of my frailness. It’s not an overexageration of “how terrible I am” but a honest glimpse of who I am in my flesh and without God. This realization (through the Sermon on the Mount process) is now starting to stir up in me compassion and mercy for people. I see other people’s weaknesses, failures, strongholds and issues and I am reminded of my own. This pushes me to pray for them, in the same way as I would cry out for help for myself.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Matthew 7:1-2
The beauty of have mercy on others is that you are promised mercy back. If i refain from judging, I will not be judged and if I give mercy to others, Jesus promises mercy and grace for my needs in return. Ever since that night, it seems my world has gotten a lot more frustrating. It seems people are doing all they can to get me to judge them or critize them and I have to admit, my first thoughts and sometimes my first words are harsh and judgmental but then God reminds me of my need for change and mercy and I am overwhelmed with compassion.
Yet that is not enough for me. I am fighting to become a man where my first reaction to offense, frustration and things/people that would try to get me bitter is to give mercy and compassion. I desire that before I ever understand the issue, before an apology comes, before the Lord stops me and reminds me of my weakness…I want to give mercy. That’s what I want God to know me for…that “he desired mercy like I (Jesus) desired mercy”. It’s a fight and a struggle that not fun to the flesh (cause sometimes you really want to lash out) but in the end, it will make me a peacemaker (Matthew 5:8), someone God can trust and entrust power to, to make wrong things right in this world. So until the end of my life and even in the age to come, I desire to be a person of true humility, passion and mercy…cause I know that is what Jesus wants from my life.