Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mercy not Sacrifice

Esqueleto: I hate orphans!
Say it to my face!
Esqueleto: I hate them!
Nacho: Come again?
Esqueleto: I hate all the orphans in the WHOLE WORLD!

-Nacho Libre (2006)

If you have seen the movie, you probably remember the scene. Among other reasons, I laugh at this dialogue because it is both exaggerated and unrealistic that anybody would actually “hate all the orphans in the whole world.” It just wouldn’t make sense. What would be the point?

Contrary to what “El Esqueleto” facetiously proclaims, most of us find it easy to have compassion on those with legitimate needs. But what do we do with the people that bother us and get on our nerves?

In Matthew 9: 9-13, Jesus confronts the Pharisees when they question why he is hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners. Jesus teaches, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Although we can agree that we need to love the tax collectors, it would be a misunderstanding of Christ’s teaching if we merely made a list of who Jesus was specifically talking about and made sure that we loved and accepted them alone.

If we think about what Christ is teaching when he says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” we can include just about everyone in the list of who we should love and accept. Who among us doesn’t need Christ, the great physician?

However, it is Christ’s next statement that challenges me the most:

“But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.

In this instance, the Pharisees weren’t critical of Jesus healing the blind or sick, but of Jesus loving those that the Pharisees couldn’t stand. They were resentful of the tax collectors who had been ripping them off (and everyone else) for years. There were legitimate reasons why the Pharisees didn’t care for the “sinners” in the company of Jesus. And it was in this very situation that Jesus responds, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

And that is why it is difficult.

While it is easy for most to show mercy and compassion to those who deserve it; a widow in need or an orphan left with nothing. Where is that same mercy and compassion for those that get on our nerves?

As Christians, we are the visible expression of the invisible God, allowing Christ to live through us and to continue to minister today just as he did on the pages of our New Testament. As difficult as this is for me, I know that, this too, is "possible through Christ who gives me strength".

Consider how Christ wants to apply that through your life today. How does He want you to be an agent of His mercy? Where and how can you dispense His grace?