Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Though Tried

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5.7

Merciful God!

This idea of mercy suffers from inadequate airtime. It regularly surfaces without hanging around very long. Some of our liturgies give it a passing nod. (“Jesus have mercy. Lord have mercy.”) Yet for many it’s a baked-in part of the ritual, seldom receiving more than lip service. But mercy is important because it’s one of God’s most priceless gifts to us.

Without His mercy, where would we be? Surely as a species we’ve done enough damage to His world and each other to deserve His unbridled wrath. Surely as individuals we’ve crossed the line so many times that He has every right to disown us. Yet again and again the Bible makes a point of reminding us, “His mercy endures forever.” In other words, even at our worst we can’t match God at His best.

Less of Us Means More of Him

It’s foolish to believe He’s thrilled about it, yet He does it because He recognizes our weaknesses. He knows our beings often lose the struggle with our personalities; our intrinsic desire to please Him falls to our instinctive will to survive. How we must try His patience! Still, His mercy endures.

Jesus instructed us to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect. (Matthew 5.48) It’s a tall, realistically impossible order to fill. Jesus obviously knew this. Still, He set this goal before us to inspire us to get as close as we can to God’s divine nature. And in John 3.30, He explained how it works: “He must become greater; I must become less.” It’s altogether possible to overcome our personality conflicts with self-discipline and courage.

Endurance Tests

Now, let’s get back to mercy. One of the best indicators of how little there is of us and how much there is of Him is our score on mercy endurance tests. Nearly every day, we’re challenged to forgive a wrong, overlook a slight, or indulge a weakness. Many times it’s the same people making the same mistakes, exploiting our mercy to its breaking point. But, like our Father, we have to endure.

Though feeling used or frustrated by these trials, we see in others what God sees in us—struggle and failure. They may abuse our readiness to forgive. It might even mystify them. It’s no big secret for us, though. Showing mercy to others, repeatedly if necessary, positions us to obtain mercy. Given how much we need it ourselves, in even the worst cases, we stay happy though tried.

Knowing God's mercy teaches us how to extend it to others: "Your Mercy," Donnie McClurkin.

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