There’s a good chance that if you grew up in the late 80’s or early 90’s, when you hear this phrase your mind automatically goes back to Uncle Jesse from Full House repeating his catch phrase.
I doubt that many of us would trace it back to an Old Testament prophet. And yet…..if we turn to Micah 6:8, we find that Uncle Jesse wasn’t the first person to think this was a good idea. The other day as I was driving in the car, I was once again reminded of the importance of “having mercy” when it comes to how we interact with other people. We were sitting in traffic (of course) when a bumper sticker on a car in front of me caught my attention. Hidden among the Philadelphia sports paraphernalia was a sticker with these words:
Do Justly Love Mercy Walk Humbly
What a poignant way to sum up Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Almost as soon as I read these words I realized that they were the answer to a dilemma I’d been mentally struggling with for the past few days. I’m sure we’ve all been there—-it seems to be an eternal struggle. How do we show God’s love to others without saying what they are doing is alright? How do we hold to the standards of the Bible, avoid the pitfall of condoning sin, and yet keep from being the person who is so harsh and critical that people run when they walk into a room? Specifically I was struggling with how to respond to a particular situation. What happened was wrong—-really wrong——and yet, my heart hurt for the person who had committed the sin knowing that their choice would result in nothing but pain. How do we respond? Then a silly bumper sticker on a car seemed to put in all into perspective.
When it comes to myself: God wants me to pursue justice. With others, I am to love mercy. And in all situations, I am to walk humbly remembering that there but for the grace of God go I.
You know, it’s ironic: As human beings we love the word “mercy” when it applies to our situation; yet when it comes to having mercy on others, we want to pursue justice. When we are the ones who are struggling with sin, we want to make excuses, justify our actions, and seek God’s grace; yet when it comes to others who have hurt us or the people we care about—-we want to throw the book at them. Yet, hidden in this tiny book of the Bible is a different perspective. Here we are told that when it comes to my own life, God wants me to do what is right—-to be just, fair, honest. He wants my word to be my bond. He wants me be kind to everyone, without favoritism. I need to avoid making excuses or being easy on myself. When I do make a mistake, I need to repent and then return to the right path as quickly as possible. As a Christian I am called to hold myself to the highest standard possible, to avoid compromise (even when it seems like it’s no big deal) and pursue right living. After all, the only thing I can really control is MY actions. Before I worry too much about the actions of others, I first need to ask myself, “Am I doing all that I can to live right?” However, when it comes to others, we need to extend mercy. Does that mean that we say what they have done is right? Absolutely not. Truth is always truth and the principles of the Bible do not change. However, when we choose to extend mercy we offer truth with a path to restoration and healing. How do we extend this mercy? By treating others the way we would want to be treated should we find ourselves in the same situation. By reminding them that they have an opportunity to turn to God and receive forgiveness, that even though it may seem like they have shipwrecked their lives, as long as we are breathing there is still a chance for recovery, healing, and a fresh start following God again.
So how do we find the balance between avoiding compromise and being judgemental?
Although I certainly don't have all of the answers to this dilemma, I am learning that one of the keys is following the advice of Uncle Jesse (and Jesus) and "Have Mercy".
Just a thought.
"Be Merciful just as your Father is Merciful."
Luke 6:36 (NIV)
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