Hello my beautiful sisters! I am sincerely honored to be journeying with ya'll these next 8 days as we are reminded of the severe merciful love of Christ that drew him to Calvary for our sake. As we come into this Holy Week we will be focusing on the nature of Mercy. We will explore what it truly means to be merciful, how the Lord shows us His Divine mercy in scripture/tradition, the inner workings of mercy in our personal/work relationships, and how to be genuinely merciful to ourselves and others.
So my question is this: What is mercy exactly? Even more important, what isn't it? Too often its meaning gets muddled in the murky waters of social media. I recall in recent news (which, btw, should be renamed The Bad News) the story of a woman who was advocating her own death. She was suffering a slow, painful, and debilitating disease. She responded to this by wanting control over how and when she would die. This is called “mercy” killing, assisted suicide, or if you're one who's more sensitive to those terms and think they have a negative connotation you can call it euthanasia. Is taking one's own life, or supporting another's choice to do so, a merciful act? According to Oxford Dictionary mercy is, “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.” Don't doctors take the Hippocratic Oath which states they will protect life and NOT harm it?? I don't see how ending another's life is compassionate or kind. It's like saying, “Hey, you're too weak to handle this, and because you're suffering your life is 100% void of meaning, so just end it.” This is crazy talk!! If we keep on reading we find that the synonyms of mercy are: kindness, tolerance, indulgence, and lenience. Hmmm...okay now let's look at the biblical meaning of mercy.
When we read sacred scripture mercy has a completely different meaning. In Lamentations 1: 1-2 we read about Israel as a “princess among the provinces” who has “been made a toiling slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks, with not one to console her...Her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies.” In chapters 2 and 3 we read about how the Lord afflicted her (Israel) with His “rod of anger.” Her people were starving, dying, weeping, and some were even eating their children to survive! We cannot say that it was lenience or indulgence that led God to punish Israel in this way. Nope! As hard as it can be to see, He did this out of Loving Mercy because Israel was not being faithful to Him and she needed to be corrected. Mercy is not pity. Mercy is God's power, wisdom, and goodness united. Mercy is Jesus incarnate.
In verse 33 we read that, “He has no joy in afflicting or grieving” us. God, in His wisdom, allows these painful consequences to occur so that we may repent and have contrition. To repent is to make a 180 degree turn away from sin while walking towards Christ and contrition is being deeply sorrowful for the sins we've commited. The opposite of love isn't hate, but indifference (Music wisdom from The Lumineers). And guess what ladies, our Lord is NEVER indifferent to us! Never. C.S.Lewis says, “He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”(The Problem of Pain). Hence, Israel's anguish at times during Salvation history. God loves Israel so much that he will not leave her alone! Lewis also writes that,
“Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness...There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness (in the sense given above) is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object....”
My challenge for you this day is to be merciful in the FULLEST, most TRUEST sense. Be gentle, be patient, be understanding, be kind and loving (together), but don't be indifferent or indulgent because that is not biblical mercy. I am taking this challenge with you today. I encourage you to take 5 minutes to think about how you will ACT this out. Make a plan! Write it down, and let me know how it goes. Remember,
“The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, say my soul; therefore will I hope in him (Lamentations 3:22-24).”
Recommended Reading by Catherine: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
And don't forget: we have a downloadable study journal for this Lenten Study! Yours Free!!