“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…”
Ten years ago, I had just moved interstate, started a new job, and things were not going great with my family when I blew up my hair dryer. I took myself and all my angst and stress to buy a new one. I picked out a new hair dryer, took it to the register, swiped my credit card, and signed the slip (obviously this was before pay wave and Apple pay).
The woman behind the register looked at my signature, looked at the back of my credit card, then back to my signature again. She asked me in an accusatory tone: “Is this your card?”
Those four words did it. All my stress and angst and sadness bubbled, no, vomited out of my mouth, and I let her have it. I said, “How dare you question my signature…” and more. I unleashed all my hurt, that had nothing to do with her, onto her. And she snapped back just as viciously. She fought fire with fire. It was not a pretty scene. She didn’t know what I was going through, and I had no idea what she was going through.
Mercy has this uncanny ability to peel back the face of things, it looks behind the curtain of actions and behaviors, and looks at the heart – the why, the how, the what. To what's really going on.
During hard times, my family, friends, and strangers have often looked past my terrible behavior and shown me kindness. Bad behavior is more often than not the result of brokenness. And if all we do is shout at brokenness, point a finger at it and judge it, healing will never take place.
“Mercy is an extension of The Divine’s justice. It’s not about DOING good things, but about VALUING all. ”
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Try this for an interesting exercise, think of some of the “worst people” in the world regarding behavior, and dig around in their past. I promise you’ll find brokenness. It’s not an excuse for the things that they’ve done, but it does bring context. And begs the question, what if someone had shown them mercy?
Mercy is an extension of the Divine’s justice. It’s not about DOING good things, but about VALUING all. To love God is to love others and to care about the state of their lives. You don’t leave something of value on the side of the road to be forgotten about.
Jesus says in Matthew 25,
“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me… I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”
When we love others and engage in kindness and mercy, we, in turn, engage with the essence of God’s Kingdom. We actively bring heaven to earth. And this joining of humanity and divinity brings along with it a profound sense of joy and belonging. Our highest ‘call’ has nothing to do with career and fame and fortune. Weaved into us at the beginning was the ability to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly”… We can never be fulfilled until we outwork the things we were designed to do.
When faced with my outburst, what would have happened if the woman behind the register responded with kindness? Or how would I have impacted her if I had shown her mercy?
Frederick Buechner said, “Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too…”
God continually sees us through eyes of mercy and invites us to do the same.
Written by Liz Milani