I wonder if you have ever considered how it is people come to understand the "value" in following Jesus. In fact, when you really stop to consider how it is we determine "value" for anything in our lives it becomes apparent "value" is often determined by how it makes us feel, what it promises to provide for us, etc. It isn't so much because someone else says this object is worth great value - we somehow "determine" the value of the item as it relates to US. The value another sees in an object may not be the same as we place in it. Antiques are a good example of this. As I shopped throughout the antique stores in Virginia on a recent trip, I saw everything from a manageable $3 price tag on a milk bottle to an astronomical price of $295 on another. They did not look all that dissimilar - but the "value" of one was obviously huge compared to the other. Perhaps someone who understands antiques will tell me the value of the more expensive one is determined by the number of bottles known to be in circulation, the era from which they were came, etc. In my eyes, they both looked the same on the shelf! So, value for me was determined in finding just the right one to bring home to my daughter for her collection - but not in breaking the bank! I wanted it to be from the area I was in so it would tie back to my trip - so I settled on a very reasonably priced one. The "value" was in the thought behind the gift, the memory of the trip, and the enjoyment I would get out of seeing her add it to her collection.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NIV)
When we stop to consider the value of following Jesus, we might just realize the things outlined in Matthew 5 are just a hint of the many "things" which help to determine the value of this relationship. Today, we consider the meaning of mercy. Did you ever consider how it is people recognize Jesus anyway? Isn't it through the "value" of a changed life? When others see the influence of God's mercy in our lives, it speaks volumes. It draws them to considering the "why" behind the change. In considering the "why", they come face to face with the "who"! There are a lot of ways we connect with people. We can be empathetic toward another - somehow connecting on the level of understanding what another is walking through. We can be sympathetic toward another - finding our connection in the "feelings" we share in the moment. When we exercise mercy toward another individual, we connect them with the hand and heart of Jesus. It is not US they are connecting with, it is Jesus!
Mercy is unlike empathy or sympathy, as mercy is really an "action" word. In fact, for us to fully understand mercy, we have to admit it is best interpreted and received because of the action of another on our behalf. So, in considering why mercy connects another to the heart and hands of Jesus, you can see how mercy is a "demonstration" of what God is, how he acts, and what he desires for our lives. It is love in action - love demonstrated when least deserved. If you have ever been face to face with someone who really needs "mercy" in their lives, you might just realize how difficult it is to give what someone does not deserve. If mercy were an easy thing, it would not be of the greatest "value", would it? Value is determined by what another "sees" in the object. When another "sees" Jesus in the actions we exhibit toward them when they least deserve it, there is a connection made with the one who gives ultimate "value" to each of us.
Probably the toughest group of individuals to give mercy to is the group who actually stand out as the ones who hurt others by their actions. We all have some of these in our circle, don't we? No matter how much you try to "love" them into the kingdom, there is no action apart from mercy which will show them their ultimate value. They are "ugly" in their actions, oftentimes taking others into their miserable mess of life, hoping to cause them as much misery as they themselves are experiencing. It is a true adage - misery indeed does love company! Misery is only put to rest where mercy becomes the means of action in response to another's misery. Mercy toward those who strike out to hurt others is not deserved - but it is needed. It points them to the only place their misery can find rest - Jesus.
Miserable people are often struggling with things outside of their control. In return for having so much out of their control, they try to control just one or two elements of their lives - oftentimes through the creation of chaos or misery in the lives of others close to them. This seems contrary to logic, doesn't it? Yet, it is the means by which they can somehow exercise a little bit of control in their difficult lives. When they receive mercy in return, the connection begins to be formed which will afford them the chance to connect to hope rather than despair. Mercy is an action word, remember. Merciful (purposeful) action toward another is what we find Jesus doing throughout this entire time on this earth. Every journey he took, every crowd he taught, every single encounter mattered. It was a chance to give mercy to those others could not embrace, would not take a chance on, or simply had rejected long ago. He embraced the lepers, took a chance on the worst of sinners, and reached out to the ones who made all the wrong life choices. Mercy is indeed best understood in the purposeful action toward another.
Just some seed thoughts on mercy this morning. We will take us a little deeper look tomorrow. Until then, consider how you are connecting the dots for another as it relates to who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he desires for them. Your actions of mercy are often the loudest actions you will ever reveal! Just sayin!