Mercy or Sacrifice?
In many ways, we have a fortunate perspective when it comes to Jesus’ teaching on mercy. Unlike those who followed Him throughout His ministry, we have almost two thousand years of reflection on the cross. We possess the biographical and theological words of the apostles in scripture, and centuries of thought shared by some of the greatest minds in history. But this doesn’t mean we are less prone to put form over spirit and miss the heart of God on this subject. I fear we are more like the second servant in Jesus’ parable at times than we would like to admit. How?
The second servant had a serious case of compartmentalization in his life. We all compartmentalize. Without this God-given ability it would be impossible for us to function and focus in the midst of trouble. The catch comes when we fail to recognize how an event in one arena of our lives should influence how we behave in another. It is easy to become arrogant in our successes and lose sight of those who have supported us along the way, or even in the way. We have all met people who warm up to us when they need us and ignore us after they get what they want. I have talked with husbands and wives who tell me they have “outgrown” their spouses. I can’t help but think, “Really? You have outgrown the one to whom you have committed your life and without whom you would not have succeeded?”
People who think they will be justified by their much sacrifice are compartmentalizers. They pick and choose the kind acts for which they believe they should be recognized by God and they don’t want to be saddled with responsibilities that might keep them from reaching their goals. The merciful, on the other hand, live in the shadow of the cross. They are convinced their hopes and dreams are tied to Jesus’ willingness to set them free from sin. When they sense a need for mercy they take on the role of ambassador, carefully administrating the grace they first received from God. Merciful people make plenty of sacrifices, but only because they are necessary to express the heart of God in a difficult circumstance.