Meditating on the Commands of Christ (46): Be Merciful

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice” (Abraham Lincoln). Given that “Honest Abe” Lincoln was noted for truthfulness and integrity, that’s a pretty strong commendation for the value of mercy, and his assessment wasn’t unprecedented. In the Old Testament, we’re taught that God himself, the supreme judge over all the earth, is merciful (1), and that He desires us to be merciful (2).

So, what is mercy, how does it square with justice and the law, and why should we be merciful? “Mercy” comes from Anglo-French “merci” (which we think of as “thank you”) and Latin “merc” (“merchandize”) meaning “price paid; wages.” To show mercy is to extend forgiveness and grace to someone who has wronged us when it is within our power and right to punish them for misconduct, or more generically, it is “the compassionate treatment of those in distress” (Merriam Webster).

I doubt there’s anyone who would denounce mercy as “bad,” but strict moralists often cannot square mercy with justice. Moral radicals usually demand justice without mercy for those who fail to keep the law perfectly (be it the Ten Commandments, Shiraiah Law, or the requirements of any religious or governmental system). It is the oppressive “keep our laws or die” philosophy that makes life unbearably difficult for many people around the world.

Divine Mercy

One of the unique beauties of Christianity is the fact that our God is a God of great mercy and compassion (see verses listed below), but He also completely satisfies the requirement of justice. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, so that God can be both just and merciful. When we come before the judgment seat of Christ, we can say “Mercy! Thank you! The price for my sins has been paid by Jesus Christ!”

Sound too good to be true? It’s not! It’s the transcendent plan of our almighty, all loving God who has made a way for each of us to receive mercy and grace from his hand rather than the punishment we deserve for failing to keep His perfect laws!

Why should we show mercy to others who hurt and offend us? I’m not sure on what basis unbelievers choose to be merciful, but for me, it’s because I love God and want to please him . . . to be like him . . . to keep his commandments and extend the goodness and mercy I’ve received from him to others.

Have you experienced God’s mercy? Doesn’t it make you want to share his compassion and love with those around you?

Below are ten of my favorite verses on mercy from the Bible gleaned from hundreds. May our meditations be sweet! “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” Psalm 86:5

The Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him” (2 Chronicles 30:9).

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:18).

All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies” (Psalm 25:10).

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah” (Psalm 67:1).

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart” ( Proverbs 3:3).

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Text for this meditation: Luke 6:35-36, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Notes:
(1) “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17).
(2) “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

The King’s Choice: What Would You Choose?

While we were on our North Sea cruise and sailing in and out of Norway’s gorgeous fjordlands, Alan and I watched The King’s Choice, a recent docudrama that tells the gripping story of the Nazis’ arrival in Oslo, Norway on April 9, 1940, and how King Haakon VII of Norway chose to respond to that threat.                       The unthinkable ultimatum? Surrender or die!  Although the movie primarily follows three of Norway’s most historically dramatic days, it is really a lesson in courage, valor, and one family’s anguish over making the right moral choice …not simply for themselves, but for their entire nation.  If you’re not versed in Norwegian history, you might not know much about the events, and actually, this is the first time I understood more of the complexities from “behind the scenes.” As a kid, all I knew was that the king and his family had escaped from Norway during World War 2, and I admit rather sheepishly to wondering why everybody loved the king’s family so well when they escaped and so many Norwegians died.  In Norway, the film was a huge success. In fact, it was the best-selling film in 4 decades of Norwegian cinema and was short-listed for the Oscars in the U.S.  It premiered at Norway’s royal palace with all available members of the royal family attending, so you know it honored not only country, but king!  If you (like me) have ever wondered why countries capitulated so easily during World War 2, this movie will help you understand some of the terror they felt. (I realize being terrified doesn’t give us permission to make wrong choices, but I’m just sayin’! The only way to overcome evil is with good, by God’s grace!) It’s also helped me understand why Jesus taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”* We never ever understand all the circumstances around anyone else’s actions, so we should never suppose we can judge another person’s motives We can (and must) judge people’s actions, but even there Jesus cautions us to “judge righteous judgment.”** I aspire to (as in, “I want very much but have not arrived”) being a person who respects other people enough to withhold judgment and exercise a gracious spirit toward them as much as possible.  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).  *  “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).  **  “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Ending Well and Getting a Fresh Start

        Our refrigerator has been sort of the epicenter of family and friend lore. If you’ve sent me a photo of your family in the last few years, it’s probably here! It also serves as a bulletin board and place to display the grand kids’ art work,             and when the children visit, they definitely check to see what’s up! Now, I should explain that we bought this refrigerator used 25 years ago when we first moved into Tanglewood Cottage, and it was definitely in need of replacing. Therefore, it was the first thing to be changed out.However, I have a whole section on  my blog dedicated to “The Pictures on my Fridge,” and every picture means a lot to me!  So, before I let them touch my refrigerator, I lovingly peeled off all the photos and placed them into a coffee table photo album to keep the memories alive! The shiny, new refrigerator (my first “new” frig in our 44 years of marriage) has made me stop and think about the coming year. 2018 will be a shiny, new year… full of possibilities, but without any pictures hanging on it yet. What shall we do? First of all, I certainly don’t want to neglect my family and friends, and I want to finish this year well with the loved ones who are depending on me here at home. Sadly (because I’m so limited and our kitchen is an updating disaster area for the time being), that means I won’t be doing much blogging between now and mid January, although I’ll try to keep my recipes and Song of Solomon meditations going (and anything else as time allows).

One of my girlfriends suggested that I re-post some of my earlier blogs that people seemed to enjoy a lot. That didn’t feel quite right to me, although if you’ve got some free time and are interested in any particular topic, everything I’ve written for the past almost 10 years is still recorded, and if you type a subject into the “Search” bar on the top right-hand corner of this blog, it will bring up posts that touch on that subject. I have to admit, though: The fact that I won’t be able to write much frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure! Does that ever happen to you? You have more to do than you think you “should,” so you feel like a flop? Take heart! God’s priorities are different from ours. He makes things much simpler than we do. God doesn’t measure success in productivity, but in living right and loving well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).

Meanwhile, I pray that God will bless and guide each of you during this holiday season. May you find joy in anticipating the good things God has in store for you this coming year, and may you fill up your days with fruitful service and a host of happy memories from loving well and being loved!

 

 

Exploring a Quintessential French Village: Annecy

Tunnel under Thiou River Annecy FranceThe day before leaving France, we were treated to a tour of Annecy, Annecy Francean incredibly beautiful Alpine commune in Haute Savoie (southeastern France)Annecy. Venice of the Alps known as “The Venice of France,” a title well deserved, Thiou River in Annecy, Francebecause the town is laced with canals from the Thiou River.Thiou River in Annecy, France 3Annecy is also adorned with colorful flower boxes, Thiou River in Annecy, France 2lined with pastel boutiques and cafes, Fabulous French Pasteries in Annecy Franceand alive with the tantalizing aromas Chocolate Shop in Annecythat have made the French famous for their cuisine. French Alps around Annecy Annecy is surrounded by mountains, Lake Annecy Jardins de l'Europe and the village grew up beside Lake Annecy some 3,100 BC, At The Palais de l'Isle and Thiou river. Annecy Francejpgalthough the present centerpiece of Old Town is the Palais de l’Isle, Palais de l'Isle on Thiou river in Annecy Francethe former residence of Annecy’s lords that dates back to the twelfth century. Shannon enjoying one of the world's best chocolate croissants at Aux Cygnes Gourmands. Annecy FranceOur tour began with a breakfast of possibly the most buttery,
flaky chocolate croissants in the world.Croissants at Aux Cygnes Gourmands. Annecy France (Mason, whom I affectionately dubbed “Fearless Leader,” adores them!) Annecy Streets lined with shops and cafesFrom there we spent the morning meandering along the streets, Dress Shop in Annecy Francetaking in the ambiance and enjoying the sights and culture of Alpine France, Medieval Shops in Annecy Francealthough we did do a little souvenir and gift shopping, Souvenir Shoppingespecially Zach, who was trying to find a French key chain for his girlfriend. City Jail in AnnecyWe also saw some of the best known sites, like the city jail Interior of church in Annecy Franceand several beautiful churches.Annecy Cathedral Not all of them were open that day, but the Annecy Cathedral was.Sanctuary of Annecy Cathedral I love how many of the historic Christian churches are open to the public.  Altar in Annecy CathedralWhat a sanctuary from the heat and bustle of the day…
the perfect spot to come apart for a few minutes of prayer and meditation. Sweet and savory crepes for sale Annecy FranceNeither Fearless Leader nor our host thought our Tour de France Menu of Crêperie Annecy Francewould be complete without trying one of France’s famous sweet or savory crêpes. Nutella. A crepe staple! Annecy France(If you’ve never had hazelnut/chocolate “Nutella”…try it sometime!) Happy Crêpe AquisitionsWe each got a “to die for it’s so good” crêpe Parc Charles Busson Annecy Franceand headed for Parc (“Park”) Charles Busson to relax and enjoy our picnic lunch.Picture of a Panoramic Photo of AnnecyThe park borders Lake Annecy, which is the 3rd largest lake in France.* Lake AnnecyFed by glacial river runoff into the lake and water bubbling up via the Boubioz
(which is 82-meters below the surface), it’s considered Europe’s cleanest lake. Water Sports on Lake AnnecyLake Annecy is a popular tourist destination for water sports and swimming. Pont des AmoursAfter our picnic, we meandered across the Pont des Amours (Bridge of Love), Pont des Amours from Thiou River Canalstopped to enjoy a free concert in the park, and strolled along the Thiou Canal. Lake Annecy Italian GelatoBy late afternoon it was really hot out, and we had a long drive ahead,Sharing Pastries so we stopped for a smackeral of something to sustain us until home and supper.Windowboxes in AnnecyWhat an incredible contrast to the squalor and poverty endured by the refugees.Canal through Annecy FranceI think we all struggled with “survivor guilt.” (I know Zach and I did.) Canals in Annecy. The Venice of FranceIs it “okay” to be so happy when millions—billions—of people aren’t???
Perhaps the answer is to be charitable but also enjoy the life God’s given you:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
(Micah 6:8)

By the end of our trip, we felt bonded—a bit like soldiers coming home from war— and I thought, “Yes, because we are soldiers, but for the Prince of Peace.”

“Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follow’r of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?

“Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

“Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.”
(—Isaac Watts, 1721)

(*All the pictures are mine, although the panorama of Lake Annecy in the winter is a photo I took of a picture outside one of the shops.)

 

What’s The State of the Union? Dis-eased

Uncertain. Uneasy. The looks on their faces said it all: our vice president to the left, with his practiced, professional smile trying to mask insecurity over how the nation would respond to whatever Obama was going to say next, and our house speaker to the right, with his pained, poker face trying to mask discomfort with what the president was saying and how such refined wool would doubtless blur the nation’s vision.

Never heard such a quiet audience. Never heard a state of the union so carefully crafted to avoid conflict rather than “march into hell for a heavenly cause.” But, he accomplished his goal, I’d say. My two young adult sons, both college graduates but living at home without jobs in their fields yet, left politely after listening to the speech and went into the other room to see how the Australian open was panning out. They, too, were unsure of how to respond.

I think that’s all Obama was hoping for…to keep out of trouble just now with an eye toward being re-elected in 2012.  This wasn’t a state of the union really, it was his first big chance for a campaign apologetic, based largely on McCain’s 2008 campaign platform. Maybe if McCain been a young, charismatic Democrat, he would have won. McCain was, after all, one of the few men who did seem at ease tonight, probably because he’s old enough to appreciate that sometimes you win personally when you lose politically.

Don’t misunderstand me. There are some things about Obama that make me happy. I am a fan of someone with black skin becoming president in this melting-pot country of ours. I truly have bought into the American Dream, and I love the fact that someone from a broken home and an amazingly diverse and difficult childhood can rise to the highest office in our country. I love having a handsome, lanky, young leader who can calculate his environment and change course like a chameleon. I, too, will clap for a president who praises our teachers and soldiers and women, who commends the ideals of our country, and who ends his speech with a double “God bless.” I like all that.

However, I love actually pursuing truth, wisdom, and honesty even more. I’d rather have a clear call to what is right than a mesmerizing melody that sounds pleasant but appears to be carefully crafted political rhetoric to keep the nation uncertain and…possibly as comfortable as a frog in a steaming pot?? Give me life, freedom to pursue goodness and happiness in a just and fair way, and constitutional faithfulness, and I’ll be happy. Try to pull the wool over my eyes, and I’ll be uncomfortable and wary. Not at ease, but dis-eased, just like the rest of the folks who sat listening to Obama tonight.

What now? Pray for our leaders. Pray for our nation. Be a part of His people, who are called by His name, who are willing to humble themselves and pray. And work. And sacrifice for the sake of others, the health of our nation, and our world. May we turn away from evil in repentance and seek justice and righteousness for our nation. And, in our personal lives, may we “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).