Mercy

King David has always been someone I’ve admired. I know, he was far from perfect; he lied, he coveted and committed adultery, he murdered, and he failed to act when it came to disciplining his children. Yet, he’s remembered for being a man after God’s own heart. Why? Because he was a repentant man, who sought God’s glory and hated wickedness.

But in all honesty, he wasn’t much different from us. As I continue to read through the Psalms, I take note of how David repeatedly prayed regarding his enemies. Like so many of us, he often prayed in a way that Jesus Himself spoke against in the New Testament. I get it. David’s heart was hurting. People were talking badly about him, he was being physically, mentally and spiritually attacked; and he wanted justice. He wanted to see his enemies suffer and he wanted them shown no mercy.

David believed, as we often do, that God should show up on his side, and destroy all his enemies. As though God had something to prove to them. But God is God. He moves in His own will and time, and He does things in His own way. He shows mercy to whom He desires to show mercy (Exodus 33:19) and His justice may not be seen in this world, but the next. Lastly, don’t miss the irony here, David, whom God had poured mercy upon repeatedly, was asking that God not grant mercy towards others!

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. To pray like David did so often in the Old Testament, that our enemies would suffer for their wickedness, is not exactly what God had in mind. Perhaps, instead, we should pray that their eyes be opened to the error of their ways. Perhaps, we should pray that they come into the saving knowledge of Christ. Perhaps, we should pray that our own hearts would be softened and filled with love for them.

We often expect that God will show us mercy, but don’t always want that same mercy poured out on those who’ve hurt/wronged us, or have done some other immoral thing. I mean, look back at Jonah. He didn’t want God to show mercy towards the Ninevites, so he became disobedient, and refused to preach salvation to them. When he finally went to Nineveh and God poured out His mercy upon them, Jonah was angry. He acted along the same lines as the Pharisees did when Jesus chose to preach, teach, and eat with “sinners” and tax collectors (I had to put “sinners” in quotes because we’re all sinners, according to Romans 3:21-25). So often, those claiming to be followers of Christ find themselves in the same boat, and it’s sad. I get it; it’s not easy to forgive those who’ve hurt us, but that’s why God gives us supernatural power–the Holy Spirit–to help us in impossible situations. (For more examples you can read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the unforgiving servant, in Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 15.)

San Diego, Ca. Beach 1God calls us to behave in ways that are completely contrary to the ways of this world; and I think we’ve walked with the world for far too long. Christ died so that we ALL could have an opportunity to have relationship with God, not just a few of us; and He asks that we show others the mercy He’s shown us. When the world sees our love and respect for each other–even for our enemies (and those we don’t see eye-to-eye with)–they’ll recognize something different, something real in us. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

P.S. This post is somewhat similar to a post shared back in 2015, titled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, if you’re interested in checking that out.
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Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.