Showing the Mercy We've Received
For the past few years, I have started the year by doing a personal reflection on the Beatitudes outlined by Jesus in Matthew 5. I often need a reminder from Jesus about how He intended for me to interact with people. For those who have strong, driven personalities (maybe type 8s on the Enneagram), who demand a high level of performance, and possibly have a lower level of relationalness or self-awareness, the fifth attitude can be a difficult one. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”.
In a recent conversation with pastor friends, I recalled a situation where I received a great deal of mercy. Several years ago, I worked in the Northwest Ministry Network office as a District Youth Director. It was a particularly difficult time, as the network was going through a financial challenge. Money was tight, and everyone was pulling their load to raise money and keep the offices functioning. With little money, we brainstormed how we might encourage several hundred pastors in the network. After much discussion, we decided on a dinner and a small gift of appreciation. I had a contact who worked for a local coffee company, and I volunteered to secure coffee at a reduced price. Over the phone, my contact gave me a quote. The mistake I made was that I didn’t get the quote in writing, because we had a close, trusting, friendship. I ordered the coffee; the event was fantastic, and the small gift of coffee was a big hit. When the invoice came in the mail, I broke out in a sweat. I called my friend and said, “The quote you gave me was for $2.50 per bag, not $12.50 per bag”. My friend replied, “No, I could never sell it for that cheap”. Walking into my boss’s office that afternoon was difficult. I showed him the invoice with a sincere apology. I will never forget his response: “That is an expensive lesson for you, but I bet you won’t do it again”. He got up from his chair, put his arm around my shoulder, and affirmed me and my leadership. It was a real example of mercy, and I will never forget it.
The apostle Paul reflects on the mercy given to him through his relationship with Christ in 1 Timothy, saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ might display His patience as an example for those who believe in Him”. We all find ourselves in positions where we are in need of another chance, a do-over. Sometimes we need mercy for ourselves and sometimes we need mercy for others. In order to have a fresh start, we must let go of the hurt caused by others. Healing from our hurt and pain often starts with forgiving.
To be clear, being a merciful person does not mean that one is weak or lacks fortitude. Being merciful does not imply that we stop holding people accountable for their actions or lower our expectations of deadlines or quality of work. Being merciful is about choosing to forgive and showing compassion. Being merciful is about using your influence to relieve suffering, find solutions, and make a positive impact on people for Christ.
Lord, help me to show mercy to people the same way I have received it. I have had a negative attitude toward those who have said things, done things, and caused pain. Holy Spirit, give me the strength to show mercy, to show forgiveness, and to offer a blessing instead of a curse. You are the God of second chances. Amen.