Mercy Not Sacrifie
I've been reading a great book by Morgan Guyton this week entitled, How Jesus Saves The World From Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity.
I bought the book because I had the mistaken notion that it was going to be an indictment of what those other kinds of Christians (the ones who are always angry, yelling and boycotting stuff) were doing to make it difficult for the rest of us.
The problem is, it wasn't that kind of book. The author effectively brushed aside my clean categories, and leveled some serious truth at all Christians--me included. In one of the chapters, he focuses on the following verse from the prophet Hosea:
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." - Hosea 6:6
In this verse, God is speaking through the prophet and saying, "I could care less about the performance of your worship. What I care most about is your worship in action."
The difference between mercy and sacrifice by this definition is in how much it costs me to do one or the other. Sacrifice (performance) allows me to keep at arms length the suffering of others, the brokenness of the world. I can do all kinds of "sacrificial" things that make me look like I'm following Jesus, but if I'm not acting mercifully, God isn't impressed.
Morgan Guyton writes, "But mercy is messy. Its only mercy if your heart has been wounded enough by the other person's suffering to fog up your sense of moral clarity and shatter your confidence that you have an easy solution to the other persons problems."
In light of the tremendous divisions that we are facing in our country right now, in our own communities, towns and neighborhoods... I think it's time for us as Christians to begin thinking more like Jesus.
We need to beware of misusing phrases like "love the sinner and hate the sin," that create blurry lines and feed into the "sacrificial" system of performance-based worship. Jesus identified with the broken, lost and marginalized.
I believe Jesus wants us as his followers to simply love the sinner, period--recognizing our own brokenness and need for grace.
The great Thomas Merton once wrote that "If my compassion is true...not a legal affair, or a mercy learned from a book and practiced on others like a pious exercise, then my compassion for others is God's mercy for me."
May you seek to show mercy, to identify with those who are suffering, vulnerable and in need of grace. May you embrace your own salvation as you see yourself in the other, expressing through your actions your gratitude for God's love and mercy in your own life.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.