Why do we Christ followers wrestle with the Biblical concept of mercy?
“Isn’t it odd that Christendom — that huge body of humankind that claims spiritual descent from the Jewish carpenter of Nazareth — claims to pray to and adore a being who was a prisoner of Roman power, an inmate of the empire’s death row?
That the one it considers the personification of the Creator of the Universe was tortured, humiliated, beaten, and crucified on
a barren scrap of land on the imperial periphery, at Golgotha, the place of the skull? That the majority of its adherents strenuously support the state’s execution of thousands of imprisoned citizens? That the overwhelming majority of its
judges, prosecutors, and lawyers — those who condemn, prosecute, and sell out the condemned — claim to be
followers of the fettered, spat-upon, naked God?”
~Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jarnal
Why do we, the saints, the Christ followers, the Christ “like” ones struggle, wrestle, resist being like Christ in showing mercy to others, including each other? To be honest, I’d rather offend a non-Christian… seriously. What we often refer to as “lost” people usually have a greater capacity to show mercy, to forgive, to give to those less fortunate than we! I find mercy, be it from causing an offense, or in giving to others in dire conditions more freely flowing from non-Christians.
When it comes to those who are poor, in dire straights, Christians start with the proverbial questions, “Do they deserve help? Did they earn this misfortune?” Yet, Jesus clearly dismantles and attacks repeatedly the notion that the better your circumstances and financial status, the more blessed and favored you are by God… One only need to read the “Rich Young Ruler” and any number of other parables (before going to any number of books in the Old Testament (Joseph in Genesis, Job’s situation) to dismantle that idea. Yet, the saints hold this “justify any mercy I might share” attitude. So, we literally say… to receive mercy from me, you must “deserve it”… which translates “be like me”… moral, church going, non-swearing and vote like me… and if you don’t then you don’t deserve mercy. It doesn’t seem to matter if hard times fell on you, or you fell on hard times. How do we justify this with Jesus looking us in the eye? Did He tell the fellow man being crucified, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise…because you deserve it?” Or when Jesus encountered the emotionally hollow Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the woman touching his robe, the leper, the Roman Centurion… need I unpack that more?
Need a person be at the very bottom, destitute before they earn mercy? Can a person, in need, but not yet at the bottom, find mercy among those who are to emulate Christ?
More so, need a person be worthy and promise to use it “our way” to receive mercy? I’m not opting for throwing away what we give, or to enable unhealthy lifestyles, but are we called to administer an inquisition, or to be faithful and let the Spirit worry about those things. Can we give in mercy, freely, and not needing to be arrogant and not emulate Christ?
More so, what is our motive for not giving? Is our need to even, though unlike Christ, discern worthiness, really masking our own greed and need to control and keep our own money for “ours”? Why can we not let go? I challenge that we have world view issues. Yes, we have worldviews (frame works in seeing and living in life) that are not Kingdom values, but our world’s values, lost values, built on self and enlightenment – self advancement. To be like Christ, we are to emulate Christ and remember that while we were “yet sinners” Christ died for us, not when we deserved it, or were worthy of it (Romans 8.1f & Galatians 1-2).
One of the greatest known parables is Jesus’ story to respond to a challenge of “who is my neighbor”… and He tells the story of the good Samaritan, where the Samaritan, not the “holy” Jewish person, showed the mercy to the Jewish guy who was mugged. The Samaritan gave himself, his money, his time to an “enemy”…. who did not earn it, or justify himself, and to a Samaritan was not “worthy” of his sacrificial help.
May we become people who a) life sacrificially with our purse; b) live sacrificially with our heart attitude to give in every way; c) be like Christ and be known for such, as they were in the 1st century.
Dare to be challenged by a couple of people far more eloquent than me? Check these out! I strongly recommend both: