“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.’ For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough”
-Jesus [Matthew 9:13]
Just a concept
What does mercy or compassion look like in the 21st century? It’s a good question, but maybe it’s a bit broad. How about this: What does compassion look like in your community? How about in your neighborhood? How about in the houses across the street and to your right and left; the apartment above you, or across the hall? This concept of compassion is something that has been haunting me lately. It’s been a result of reading through the gospels and viewing Christ’s M.O. And the “haunting” part is that when I look at my life, compassion (at least for me) is in danger of being only a concept and nothing more.
So what was Christ’s M.O.? What were his “default” settings? The context of Matthew 9:13 places Christ right in the middle of tax collectors and “notorious sinners.” Jesus was obviously blatant in his willingness to rub shoulders with the rejected, the despised, and those who were looked down upon…so blatant in fact that it caused the Pharisees to question the disciples saying, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” Wow! So Christ’s default setting was to be drawn to the scum of the earth. It’s very important that we understand that this was not an isolated event in his ministry. Time and time again we find Christ right in the midst of the sick, the poor, the infirm, the demon possessed, the lepers, the unclean…the “scum” (as the Pharisees put it).
I gotta be honest with ya, I don’t find myself in the middle of the scum of the earth very often. I’m drawn to people that have similar interests as me; people that don’t need to be served, but that can serve me somehow. Mix that in with an overall attitude of self-reliance, and you’ve basically got a monster on your hands that exudes all the characteristics of a Titus-sized parasite: Taking (not giving) is my natural, sinful, mode of operation.
Mistaken for Jesus
It’s time some of us were mistaken for Jesus in our communities. What are you known for in your circle of friends? Are you the center of attention for all the wrong reasons? Do you only want to live life with people that seem to have it all together? Are you only willing to pour time and energy into relationships in which you know you’ll be reciprocated? Look at Christ and the people he encountered. He was always giving, giving, giving. Even to the point of exhaustion at times. Mercy and compassion…it’s for the people that need it, not the people that already have it altogether. Until we get that, we’ll continue to push hurting people to the side. We won’t hear the desperate cries for help. Worse yet, we’ll hear them and then ignore them. We’ll continue to go through life with a seared conscience, filtering out all but the convenient conversations…pursuing only convenient relationships.
Read the gospels and examine the life of Christ. Do your priorities really line up with his? I mean really line up? I believe you’ll come out on the other side of your study with a healthy dissatisfaction for where most of your time and energy goes when it comes to actually living out your faith. Allow that to be a catalyst to move you toward the hurting people that God brings into your life.