Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mercy Acts

I had a wonderful conversation the other day with a young atheist whom I love very much and is a member of our family.

He was raised in the church, and his coming to atheism was not without much thought and study. I feel confident that he knows scripture better than I do—better than most believers in fact.

We were talking about the Ten Commandments and the young man said, “Jesus said the greatest commandment was to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart’ and the second was to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. Right?” I agreed.

He said something that rocked my heart and has awakened my purpose.

“Christians are so pious about loving the lord THEIR God in THEIR way that they turn up their noses and turn their backs on everyone whose love for God doesn’t look exactly like theirs. They’re way to busy ‘loving’ God—and proving how good they are at it—to REALLY love their neighbor.”

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the “expert in the law” asked, “who is my neighbor?” The Bible says the man wanted to “justify himself”. I guess he wanted Jesus to tell him that his neighbor was the guy he had drinks with at the local canteen, certainly not a nearly dead guy he stumbled upon on the side of the road!

Jesus goes on to say that a neighbor is the person who shows “mercy”. Mercy is Compassion + Action. In three short verses in the book of Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus tells of eleven actions the Samaritan did to help the stranger.

Verse 33 says the Samaritan saw the man. He then took pity on him. In verse 34 he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. In verse 35 the Samaritan acted further. He took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

A neighbor is someone who notices a need and acts on it. The act of loving our neighbor should be a byproduct of our love for God. They should not be exclusive of one another.

Understand, we are being watched. Do you sit in the pew and piously love God while simultaneously judging others for not loving God as much as you do? Or are you getting off the pew and living out your love through your service?

Mercy notices. Mercy feels. Mercy acts. Those who show mercy are God-like neighbors. Now “go and do likewise”. Get off the pew!

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