James #7 August, 2019
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Winging my way over Oklahoma en route to North Carolina, I am polishing up my Southern speak. One of the funniest expressions I have heard is 'come apart' - used in a sentence like 'fit'. My daughter's nanny said, 'If I had to wait any longer in that doctor's office, I was going to have a come apart, Miss Amy!' Born and raised in the Wake Forest area, darling Ashlee has quite a repertoire of endearing Southern 'isms.
It is kind of interesting to consider how sayings become trendy; it was just a few years ago, I heard 'you only live once!' or YOLO very regularly. I would like to start a new campaign, 'Girl, have mercy!' 'Man, have mercy!'
In chapter two, after James spends a good deal of ink talking about how we treat people, and the importance of not showing favoritism, he talks about mercy. Mercy is greatly underrated, I'm afraid.
When Dylan was six years old and a hockey goalie, he won a character award for his treatment of other players and general conduct in the rink. One character trait was not listed on his colorful tee shirt--mercy. Schools have become good at lauding exemplary character of students, but somehow mercy has become passe. Have you noticed? Indeed it is an obsolete word and concept. And yet, look what James says: Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself."...whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.
There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others.
But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.1
Looks like God rather values mercy! So, let's step a little closer.
The common dictionary definition of mercy is 'compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.' More often than not, the term mercy is used interchangeably with compassion, but it is more than that; when it would seem like one might expect judgment, the judge decides to pardon or give him mercy. I have recently seen it in my own family, 'well he is only in this place because he has made such bad decisions.' So in this case, a gesture of mercy is withheld because bad judgment had been exercised, a 'hand up' is not extended because another had been foolish. To which I respond, 'Man, have mercy!'
Truth: If God gave me what I deserved, I would be in trouble. If the only true Judge meted out treatment according to my decisions, I would be on the outside looking in. Truth: I want to be shown mercy, don't you? Well then perhaps we must trade in mercy as well.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,"2 Jesus said. (Seems to be a correlation - if we wish to receive mercy, so too we must exercise mercy)
Mercy is something not of this world really. It comes from the best part of us, yet from someplace outside of us that is far higher and purer. Reminds me of these words,
~'The quality of mercy is not strained;
~It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.
~It is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes . . .'3
Humility is the companion of mercy, as it enables us to see our own need for mercy from others, from God, whereas the proud neither see their need of it, much less the value of showing mercy to another. While I often think of myself too much and also think too much of myself, one thing I know - I would be lost without God's mercy. Therefore I want to be a woman who gives mercy freely.
Could we start a campaign of mercy, you and me?
This is my thought . . .
I want to be a person who dispenses mercy in the form of compassion,
my heart broken with the things that break the heart of God
giving the benefit of the doubt, withholding judgment, having a willingness to get my hands dirty to help someone being empathetic without knowing all the details,
showing kindness in spades
because that is
Join me in praying that God will give us the desire to think his thoughts after him ~ thoughts that include mercy. Girl, have mercy! Man, have mercy!
Dear Father, transform our hearts to be a people who gives mercy by being compassionate. As we look around us, please break our hearts with what breaks yours. Remind us to give the benefit of the doubt to others, refraining from judgment. Move us to be willing to get our hands dirty to help someone else, to be empathetic and to show kindness wherever you take us---looking long in folks' eyes who need a little love. Lord, thank you for having mercy on us, may we be mercy givers in turn! Amen.
1 - James 2.8,12, 13
2 - Matthew 5.7
3 - The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, William Shakespeare