Mercy for the Misbegotten

 ‘It isn’t your sacrifices and your gifts I want — I want you to be merciful.’

Christians sometimes get it wrong. It’s because we are human by design and sinners by default. But we need to get it right.

Christians who close their eyes to — or who turn their backs on — the “undesirable” or ostracized segments of our society aren’t getting it right.

Jesus did not only seek out godly men and women. Most followers became godly men and women only after He had sought them out.

Jesus reached out to society’s unenvied. He reached out to people with bad reputations, criminal histories, questionable morality, physical or mental afflictions, and those who were otherwise ostracized by society. Jesus’ interaction with society’s “less desirables” caused conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees (the Pharisees were an influential, religious political group), ultimately contributing to Jesus’ crucifixion:

“Later, as Jesus and his disciples were eating dinner at Matthew’s house, there were many notorious swindlers there as guests! The Pharisees were indignant. ‘Why does your teacher (Jesus) associate with men like that?’ ‘Because people who are well don’t need a doctor! It’s the sick people who do!” was Jesus’ reply. Then he added, ‘Now go away and learn the meaning of the Scriptures,

 ‘It isn’t your sacrifices and your gifts I want — I want you to be merciful.’

For I have come to urge sinners, not the self-righteous, back to God.’ ” (Matthew 9:10-13)

Of all the qualities I lack (there are many), the quality of mercy has been the most wanting. Too often I have avoided eye contact with homeless people I pass on the street out of fear or discomfort. Too often I have rolled up my car window when approached by someone begging for money from fear or the assumption they are scamming me. Too often I have sanctimoniously made judgments about people less fortunate than I. I am ashamed by my actions and inaction, and I know this was not right. I ask God’s forgiveness and I am undertaking to make it right, with Jesus’ help — and mercy. Amen


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