The just are close to the people’s heart, but the merciful are close to the heart of God.
Do you ever find yourself feeling like the bread of God is unevenly spread? Well, if you are anything like me, you’ve had your share of unfair treatment by many claiming to be righteous. Sadly I’m sure you and I both have, in some instances, been the unfair ones inflicting pain on others.
The issue I have with being merciful is that is so darn hard to reciprocate what’s been given to us freely. I often find myself falling short in that area. Don’t get me wrong, I am a compassionate person, but being compassionate and being merciful are two different things. Compassion comes from a desire to do good when we are aware of a need, while mercy is a behavior; a character trait that causes us to see beyond the need.
I recently went to Puerto Rico for a business trip. One evening, my mother was driving me around the city where I grew up. I was shocked to see how much it has changed since I lived there. There were many landmarks that now stood empty and run-down. While I was mourning the “good ol’ days”, my eye caught a glimpse of a couple of people walking aimlessly in the middle of traffic. I asked my mother what the deal was with them, and she told me that they were drug addicts who roam the streets begging for drugs and/or food. My heart ached. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment, but I think it was more than compassion because I didn’t want to just give them money or bread (which we did). I wanted to embrace them and feed, clothe, and house them all at once. I don’t know what came over me, but at that moment I felt as though I was looking at them through different eyes.
That evening I cried…I felt so helpless to the needs around me and wondered why I had not felt that way before. You see, I work in downtown Atlanta, and the city is overwhelmed with the homeless and displaced. Some are legitimate cases of hard times catching up to them, but there are others who are so ravaged by drugs, they can be quite aggressive and sometimes even violent. So, even though I see them every day and sometimes give them a handout, I often struggle to interact with them.
I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing some of these people. I know one specific guy who is a regular beggar around the building where I work. He told me he was a diabetic on our very first interaction. (Disclaimer: I must warn you, I failed miserably at being merciful this particular day.) He had seen me come out of a Dunkin Donuts and asked me for food because he was a diabetic and he needed something in his stomach. I had a bagel sandwich and a donut in my hands. I gave him the donut.
God, I want to be merciful! I really, really do.
The memory of that encounter hunted me for some time. I felt like a defeated Christian! Recently, though, God in His amazing grace, gave me a chance to redeem myself…I saw that same guy again, in front of the building at which I work as I was leaving to go home. He kept looking at the subway sandwich shop next door while pacing and scratching his head. I could tell he was desperate. I walked by and got in my car, and then I felt this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. “What are you doing?” I was trying so hard to ignore it, but I couldn’t. I think it was conviction. I stopped by, rolled the window down and gave him money for food. With a thank you he ran into the Subway shop to buy food, while I drove off repenting all the way home.
My husband and I have hosted homeless people in our home as well as run away teens, struggling relatives and given to the less fortunate in many occations. So I am not saying there is no good in my heart. I’m just saying that the reality of how humanly flawed I am, sometimes leaves me perplexed. Why is it so hard to be christlike?
I’ve learned through the years that the Bible is right; “It rains on the just and on the unjust…” It’s taken me some years of excruciating hard lessons and many moments of unfathomable awe to get it but one thing is certain, the problem with mercy is not mercy itself; the problem is me and my inability to master it.
Funny thing is, God doesn’t expect me to turn all injustices into rights (I couldn’t possibly do it all), He doesn’t expect me to stop the rain…what God expects from me, is that I hold up an umbrella for those times when it rains hard on the just and the unjust. That’s when I prove myself to Him as a true extension of mercy.
I am being as honest as I can possibly be, mercy does not come natural for me, but I pray daily for God to make me an extension of Him; to be the kind of compassionate human being I should be.