Learning True Mercy

ItHappens

As I read through Luke 6 and 7 I knew immediately that I wanted to write about Luke 6:36. That verse jumped off the page as if it was written in neon lights. It reads: “Be merciful just as your father is merciful.” I have struggled with this verse for two days now and have not moved past it, a clear indication that mercy is something I have an issue with and just hadn’t realized it. As I’ve struggled with this here are the two things that I’ve learned: I’m not as merciful as I think I am and I not sure that I really understand the true meaning biblical mercy.  

I used to go to a church that sort of referred members to service groups based on spiritual gifting. This isn’t necessarily a bad concept, people should serve where they are gifted and/or talented. Anyway, one of those groups was the Mercy committee. Any “acts of mercy” that needed to be performed fell in their laps. Loved it! After all, it was very convenient. I never had to do anything. In all my years there I never had to get my hands dirty in service. What I did develop was a very bad habit that I am just now realizing. I have equated mercy with giving money. Had you asked me 48 hours ago if I exercise the gift of mercy I would have emphatically said “yes, of course!” I sponsor a World Vision child, pack multiple Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and give to charities I love. That’s mercy, right? Hosea 6:6 has really challenged this belief, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God not burnt offerings”. I have been giving God sacrifices (money) and calling it mercy. This is certainly not being merciful as my Father is merciful. Not even close.

So what is His mercy and how do I do it? In his book ‘Relearning Jesus’, Matthew Paul Turner* has a great chapter on mercy. He says Jesus’ type of mercy, is “alarming and peculiar. It gives and gives and gives with out expecting anything from me in return. The mercy of Jesus catches me off guard at times. And I believe it’s the kind of mercy that’s most effective in this world – the kind that leaves me standing back saying what just happened.” (p.94). I love that explanation. It illustrates how amazing a merciful Jesus really is and it makes me realize how far I have to go. 

I haven’t fully unpacked this topic in my head yet but in terms of application here’s one thing I can say for sure; I need to be less selective with the mercy that I give. I recently had an email conversation with Tal,** who I referenced in a previous post. He and I were discussing our frustration with people who have a manufactured point scale for sin. All sin is equal, none more or worse than the other. This has been a huge issue for me as I often complain that christians miss the mark by treating certain things as ‘big’ sins. Drives me crazy. Reflecting on Luke 6:36, I think I do the same thing with mercy. I have a tendency to give mercy and forgiveness when it is easy for me. When I don’t have to go to far out on a moral limb. And, worst of all, when I decide it’s justified. I pray that I will learn to grow in the understanding of and ability to freely show mercy, mercy like the kind the Father has shown me. 

I hope you comment on mercy and what it means to you. I have a lot to learn from your thoughts.

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 7 and 8

Here are two links for guys I’m learning to know and hope I can someday call friends:

* ‘Relearning Jesus: How Reading the Beatitudes One More Time Changed My Life” is a great book. I highly recommend it. Matthew’s currently offering this book for free, for a limited time, if you purchase his other book ‘Churched’ (hysterical!) through his site. http://jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com/

** One more shout out for Tal. He’s a cool (and merciful) guy with an inspiring story and great Sirius show that will challenge you. http://www.talprincelive.com/templates/System/default.asp?id=41919

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14 Comments

Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Uncategorized, worship

14 responses to “Learning True Mercy

  1. saradode

    I thought that the following post (and subsequent comments, some of which are mine) on my friend’s blog might be relevant to your very thoughtful post:

    http://sidewalkbends.wordpress.com/

    (It’s the most recent post.)

    We got involved in a discussion in the Comments section that addresses some of the things you’ve been thinking about.

    Take care,

    Sara
    http://saradode.wordpress.com

  2. Sooner_D61

    I think true mercy was shown on the Cross. God gave everything he had to humanity who deserved nothing. Though at this time we are not capable of that true mercy, we can strive to and pray to God to show us how to love people at least a fraction of how He did. I think with the help of the Holy Spirit that was placed inside of us, that gift can rise and touch people all over this world. Paul told Timothy to stir up the gift that was placed inside of him. I think that gift was Love. and we all need to Stir it up.

  3. Oh, Nicole, this is a great post! I think for me, mercy is following the nudges of the Holy Spirit to offer a helping hand, wherever that might be. Whether that means giving a word of kindness or encouragement or digging into my wallet to give to another while foregoing something I might need. May the Lord bless you as you bless others…Lynn

  4. melicia evans

    The first thing that came to mind is forgiving 70 x 70. Then as I was reading I realized how narrowly I had been thinking. I suppose mercy, like anything, can mean many things to different people. I think it is putting yourself in anothers position, seeing a need, and acting on it.

  5. Katy

    I think one can get a great understanding of mercy by participating in McRest I know there are area churches who are gearing up their teams for McRest. I too know what you mean when you talk about people creating levels in sin, mercy, understanding… all we’re doing is creating a comfort zone that we can live with. We forget God set the rules and they are all equally important.

  6. davekelly

    Nicole,

    I LOVE this – you are right on. As I read your blog, I too was convicted. I think I am way too ready to give my money (sacrifice) than to truly reach out in mercy to the poor, sick and marginalized.

    James 1:27.

    Dave.

  7. davekelly

    Nicole,

    I LOVE this – you are right on. As I read your blog, I too was convicted. I think I am way too ready to give my money (sacrifice) than to truly reach out in mercy to the poor, sick and marginalized.

    James 1:27.

    Dave.
    http://www.davekelly.wordpress.com

  8. Thanks for the shout out Nicole! We just got back from vacation, and this was a nice welcome home.

    In Webster’s dictionary, the first definition listed for mercy is as follows: “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”

    Compassion shown to an offender. This goes beyond forgiveness – it’s compassion shown to an offender. I work with a number of men who belong to the group that we have relegated to the status of modern day leper. The group we are allowed, even encouraged, to hate these days – registered sex offenders. Yes, you read that right, and yes, it does mean pedophiles.

    It’s hard to find a group more reviled than these people, but they are offenders – if the Body of Christ doesn’t show them compassion, who will? Yet, routinely, other pastors will call me to blast me for having “those people” in worship with us. It still breaks my heart.

    Francis of Assisi before he started his now famous ministry, said that one day he heard God tell him, “Francis, all those things that you loved in the flesh you must now despise, and from those things that you formerly loathed you will drink great sweetness and immeasurable delight.”

    He applied this divine admonition almost immediately. While riding his horse out of town he saw what he most despised – a leper. Francis confessed his hatred of lepers in his writings. Remembering the admonition from God, Francis got down from his horse, knelt and kissed his leprous hand. Then he gave him money. Catch the order?

    Francis was determined to drink this great sweetness that God had told him about, so he rode to the leper colony and begged each of them for forgiveness for having despised them. He refused to leave until he had kissed each one, then he gave them money.

    As Gary Thomas writes, “In that indelible moment, Francis’s faith became incarnate. His belief didn’t just inspire him; it transformed him.”

    Have you been transformed? Is your faith just an idea that works on Sundays? Is compassion “just not your gifting?”

    Writing a check may ease your conscience, but it leaves your heart the same. Jesus is all about changing your heart.

    “But, Tal, I’m not comfortable with that.” Jesus is not concerned with your comfort. The cross was not a comfortable place – it seems the places where the most impactful ministry happens are the most uncomfortable places.

    Mercy marries the head and the heart – Are yours divorced? Are they separated? Are they even on speaking terms?

    I know I can’t do these things, and you can’t either. But guess what – Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:3,4 that. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    You’ve been given God’s divine power so that you can participate in the God’s divine nature.

    What are you waiting for?

    Want a challenge? Go hug and kiss the hand of a registered sex offender. Drink the great sweetness of mercy.

    • Nicole Wick

      Hey Tal!

      It’s good to hear from you. I saw your pictures. Looks like you all had a good time :) I love your heart and the heart of your ministry. The funny thing is that the mercy point scale that I have created sort of works backwards. As you know, when I was counseling I worked in a program for juvenile sex offenders and a different program for addicts so I know what you are writing about all too well. Anyway, I have a tendency to take pride in the fact that I have mercy and compassion for those that the church has written off and am quick to point out that the idea of “big” sins is false teaching.

      I have trouble being judgmental and non-compassionate to those who really irritate me like a couple of soccer moms at my kids school who constantly complain about their husbands, a neighbor who drives me absolutely crazy talking about the pain of her divorce EVERY time I see her, and the person at work who is always complaining. I need to develop more ‘everyday’ mercy and compassion for those I encounter daily who are obviously in some sort of pain or disconnect.

  9. saradode

    Tal,

    This is something I don’t usually say (except when someone sneezes :) ), but bless you. What you’re doing, I believe, is in the true spirit of what Jesus tried to teach.

    Before I read your comment, I was about to write in about something I found in Marcus Borg’s “Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary” about the difference between mercy (which, he says, implies a “situation of sin” that is overlooked by the person being “merciful”) and compassion, in which there is no consideration that there was any “wrongdoing” involved.

    Borg then talks about the parable of the Good Samaritan. The answer to Jesus’ question as to who, among the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan, did what was right in God’s eyes, was, of course, the Samaritan. Borg (saying the “compassion” is a better translation of the Greek than “mercy”) goes on to say, “It is not about showing mercy to a person who has committed a wrong, but about being compassionate to a victim. Then Jesus said, ‘Go and do likewise.'”

    We are not God’s judges. We’re all God’s children, and should care for each other as loving siblings (ALL of our siblings, not just those we deem “worthy”) under the watchful eye of a loving parent who expects us to be compassionate, and to leave the discipline to him. That’s what you are doing, and it made my day to read about it.

    Take care,

    Sara
    http://saradode.wordpress.com

    • Hey Sara,

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. It’s exciting, but challenging ministry. I’m often asked what is the most challenging part of what we do – sadly, the toughest part is the fire we take from behind.

      When pastors and churches shoot at us for what we do, or try to shut us down, it gets pretty depressing.

      I’m not sure how we’ve moved so far away from the Gospel. If Jesus knew and hung with people working in the sex industry, and struggling with sexual issues – why don’t we?

      Anyway – we kinda figure if there aren’t some churches angry at us – we’re not doing it right. ;)

      Thanks so much for the encouragement!

      It means a great deal to us.

      tal
      Chief of All Sinners
      Tapestry of Hope
      Tal Prince Live!

      • saradode

        I don’t understand how people who claim to be followers of Jesus could possibly react that way, but therein lies the danger of “interpreting” God’s will, as exemplified by Jesus’ behavior, in terms of our own ideas about “righteousness.” You’re right–Jesus would have been there right along with you. His anger and scorn would have been directed at those who make it difficult for you to do your work (it makes me think of, “For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in”).

        Please never let anyone turn you away from what you’re doing.

        Take care,

        Sara
        http://saradode.wordpress.com

  10. Again, I am so touched by your words that I would like to ask you to PLEASE link this post to our first Thursday edition of The Daily Mercies. What a wonderful message as we all learn from each other.
    Ginger

  11. insertgracehere

    Nicole,
    Thanks so much for this link on The Daily Mercies! So appreciated!

    This is so needed! A big OUCH for me!

    But we need to get honest about this.

    One of my favorite verses:

    King James Bible
    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?

    We really need to get back to the basics. Kinda’ makes me think of the old For Him song. Guess you might be too young to know that one??

    Thanks again for sharing! I hope you’ll join us again next month.

    Many blessings,
    Rena
    insertgracehere.com

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