“What do you mean, do nothing?” I was rather indignant standing on the top step of the stairway to the depths of my soul. My father was waiting below. He was waiting for me to come down; to spend some time talking with Him. But, He made me mad. And like any immature child would do, I stood my ground…and pouted.
As I stood there in my righteous indignation, I felt his loving gaze soften my heart as He reminded me of the times He extended mercy to me. He didn’t have to say anything. I remembered it all clearly.
He softly said, “I’m not bringing these things to your memory to make you feel guilty. Rather I’m teaching you how to be merciful.”
The weight of that statement: “Teaching you how to be merciful.”
He let it hang there for a moment.
Now, can you truly fathom extending mercy? Let’s discuss this for a moment because it's easy to extend mercy when it’s something for which you have little care. Someone doesn’t show up on time when they said they would. "Ah, it’s no big deal. We are all late from time to time." Or, what about the time a friend spoke negatively about you to others. It stung, but you’ve been found guilty of the same thing, so they get a pass.
But what about times when you are completely innocent. You did nothing, said nothing, thought nothing. And then it happened. Your feet are wiped out from under you. And there you lay, back to the floor, eyes to the sky…speechless…breathless.
There are a whirlwind of questions. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Who do they think they are? I’ll show them! The imaginary conversations with the perpetrators begin. And there are dozens of these conversations because we have so much to say that we’ll never get around to actually saying.
And our Father whispers, “Show them mercy. Pray for them. Serve them. Love them.”
Doesn't this mean the person who wronged me wins?
The answer to this question is best illustrated: Imagine our Father watching His only Son being brutally tortured and murdered. Then, having to turn His back because of the sin and shame His Son carried for all those who wronged Him.
It’s easy, in our recollection of the crucifixion, to see the Pharisees and other religious leaders of that time as the enemies; as the ones who wronged Jesus. But, actually, it was us. We all wronged Jesus.
And Jesus had His moment where, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked the Father to take the cup of suffering from Him. After all, He hadn't done anything to deserve punishment and torture. It simply was not fair.
And mercy isn’t fair either.
I used to think being merciful was just “doing nothing,” and that often is a part of it. But Jesus demonstrates that being merciful also means taking on the punishment of the one(s) who wrong us.
In modern day America, this may not mean we actually are put to death, but we are called to pray for those who hurt us; to serve and love them. To go beyond simply “doing nothing.”
At this point, Jesus had walked me down the staircase to the deepest part of my soul. He didn't even wait for me to come, but rather, He came to get me. On the way down, He took the indignation I offered Him and replaced it with His love. He knew the job was too much for me. So, again, He did it for me. How can I not respond to love and mercy like that?
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7