July 8, 2010

finally, we talk about mercy

Mercy. It is the crux of this week's Gospel lesson. It is the "do likewise" of Jesus to the lawyer. It is what we, as followers of Jesus, as inheritors of eternal life are called to do.

So, then, how does one act merciful?

It is not as easy as it sounds. Mercy isn't all cupcakes and hugs. Mercy isn't just being nice. Showing mercy is hard. On Tuesday I offered some questions about mercy, for example, what do we do with the "stupid decision factor"?

This morning, I'm thankful for the folks over at the Center for Excellence in Preaching for the time they took to discuss compassion (they chose this translation over mercy, I'm not sure why).

An image I found particularly helpful was that of a baseball mit. As Neal Plantinga says, compassion is a little like the leather of a baseball mitt: soft enough to wrap around the baseball but tough enough to absorb what would otherwise be a hand-breaking blow. We need to be tender enough to feel genuine grief and yet strong enough to do what's necessary to help.

The thing that is clear, especially from the story of the Good Samaritan, is that mercy does not allow us to ignore our neighbors. Even when they've done something dumb, even when they don't believe what we do, even when they are royal pains-in-the-a**, we are called to show mercy and showing mercy always involves a) feeling compassion and b) doing something about it.

Do... see I told you yesterday.

Living a life of mercy is one filled with risk and is amazingly counter-cultural. Often it means putting one's self at risk for another. Often it means putting one's place in polite society at risk to reach out to those who are considered outsiders. Know this, deciding to live mercifully is not a decision one can make on their own. Only by the Spirit are we capable of living beyond ourselves. So, if you find that mercy is tough for you right now, pray for the Spirit, pray for an open heart, and pray to be transformed. Mercy flows from grace, not the grace we show others, but the grace God gives to us.

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