I’ll just be honest here: I’m not sure how to write about this. I thought I’d use another 80’s movie review to package the subject of mercy in a light-hearted jaunt through the plot of Project X. Matthew Broderick plays a selfish Air Force pilot who is grounded and transferred to a testing facility where he meets Virgil, a chimp, and learns compassion. It was a pretty good idea… but a little bit of a stretch at times.
The fact is that mercy has been heavy on my mind for about a year or so and it is making my life miserable. I wanted to write my second book on it, but each time I sat down to write, I was overwhelmed and had no idea where to start. I’m a wretched man of sinful thoughts, what right do I have to write about mercy?
So maybe I should start by having mercy on myself.
There are a few things in the Bible that don’t exactly match up with what I believe about myself. In such cases I know that the one in error is probably me.
You see, the Bible says that God has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I, however, walk up to this table, walk around it, poke at the food, and constantly check over my shoulder. I wonder whether my life is really worth the high price that God has placed on it. I wonder whether it is really safe to sit down at the table of God when my enemies and sin are nipping at my heels demanding sacrifice and penance.
“So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?” That’s what the Bible says, but I willingly enslave myself to something that is incapable of fulfilling any of its promises. I walk up to the lavish table which God Himself prepared for me and I am too fearful of the enemies to even sit down.
I love the story I once heard of a rich man who entered a village in search of a woman to marry. The fathers paraded their daughters before him in hopes that he would choose one of them. They brought their prettiest daughters because they wanted a larger dowry, the highest bride price. The man shook his head at them all. Eventually he found a young woman who was sheepishly, bent over, and nothing to look at.
The other fathers wagged their fingers when he chose this young woman and exclaimed, “Aha, he was looking for a deal!” But when he returned to the woman’s father with five cows, a higher price than any of the other girls, they fell silent. The rich man whisked her away to his home for their honeymoon.
Three months later the woman returned to visit her family but she was unrecognizable. She no longer walked hunched over along the sides of the street; she walked tall, confident and perfect right down the center of the road. That rich man had found the most beautiful woman in the city, but she just didn’t know it!
You and I are beautiful in the sight of The Lord. We are hunched over and we think of ourselves as hopeless and useless, but God found what was worth everything in His sight and went and gave everything He had for that which He loved the most. He poured out the blood of His only dearly beloved Son to wash us clean and make us beautiful in His sight. For someone who paid so much to ransom us from death, don’t you think that He would fulfill all of His wonderful promises to us?
God wants us to understand how high, how wide, how long, and how deep His wonderful love for us is. This is the hope of the Gospel, that we are no longer at odds with God, but He has brought us into His home, He has thrown a banquet in our honor with everything good to eat. He has offered us safety and joy in Him, but we are too sure of our worth to pull our heads out of the trash and hear Him calling our name.
It is only when we have mercy on ourselves that we can freely understand that the same mercy is for everyone. We need to let that change us so it can change the world we live in.